A tightly contested 41-39 win.
By Marco Cummings
GLENDALE – Following a 57-12 drubbing of the BYU Cougars in the Glendale Raptors’ home opener at Infinity Park in early February, Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon offered up the prediction that the score line would be much closer when the two teams paired up again in Utah in the post-match ceremony. The Raptors won the re-match, but the prediction came to fruition, as Glendale held on for a tightly contested 41-39 win at BYU’s Helaman Field this weekend.
“BYU is a fast, skillful team with multiple weapons and controlled by a good kicking game from their No. 10,” explained Raptors head coach David Williams. “We gave them opportunities through individual mistakes in which they found good territory, and took advantage of that territory and possession.”
Indeed, the Cougars took an early lead with a try off the first possession to take a 7-0 lead in the match’s opening minutes. Glendale found their footing with back-to-back tries to take their first lead, 12-7 at the 12-minute mark. But the Cougars wouldn’t go away, tying the game at 12 on the next possession.
Nevertheless, the Raptors endured constant pressure from their opponents and weathered cold and rainy conditions to take a 29-22 lead into halftime.
Led by the sure foot of Maximo de Achaval and strong carries from team captain Zach Fenoglio and second-row man Ben Landry to take a 36-22 lead by the 61-minute mark in the second half.
“Maximo stood out today with a very assured and composed performance at fullback, being in the right position when needed and had a good afternoon kicking which was needed in a 2-point win,” explained Williams. “Zach Fenoglio and Ben Landry back after a year off, carried well and were physical and accurate on both sides of the ball.”
Returning to the game of rugby after flirting with the NFL, Landry is another player with USA Eagles experience strengthening Glendale’s squad.
The teams exchanged tries to give Glendale a 41-27 lead with just under nine minutes left to play in the match, but the Cougars kept things interest with two more tries in the game’s waning minutes. It wasn’t enough, however, as the visitors held on for the 41-39 win to remain undefeated in 2017.
“When we executed our pattern we got some great territory and took advantage of the holes we created,” Williams said. “There are always things to work on, but good to get a win in cold and rainy conditions away from home.”
Back home, the Raptors’ D2 team also claimed victory, dispatching Air Force, 52-22.
“That’s a definite improvement from last weekend,” the Raptors head coach said of the Raptors Men’s Development side. “They still need to work on their accuracy and tempo but it was a good win in rough conditions. They now have 3 weekends on the bounce now and need to keep on improving and developing as players.”
With their April 8 home match against New Orleans canceled, the Raptors will shift their focus to the road once again, looking ahead to an April 15 trip to face Austin Huns.
In preparing for that match, the Raptors’ will be straightforward in their approach.
“Our focus will be on limiting individual mistakes which put us under huge pressure, be more conscious of where we are on the pitch, and defend accordingly,” Williams said.