Major League Rugby was founded in 2017, but the league’s existence began at Infinity Park on April 21, 2018 when the Glendale Raptors hosted Austin Elite Rugby in the inaugural match.
The fourth-best Raptors match of all time is quite possibly the most important one. It was a snowy day in April when the Raptors knocked off Austin Elite Rugby 41-26 to win the first-ever MLR match.
It started off slow. Whether that slow start could be chalked up to nerves or the cold weather is unknown, but the slow start didn’t last long. It took both teams around 10 minutes to get their legs under them, and when they did the points came in droves.
It was Austin who drew first blood on a Reece Czarnecki try in the 13th minute of the match. Fly-half Timothée Guillimin nailed the conversion to give Austin a 7-0 lead heading into the 20-minute hydration break.
The Raptors found their way onto the scoreboard for the first time with a Will Magie penalty goal in the 21st minute and before Connor Cook took a pass from Magie in for a try in the 33rd minute to evaporate Austin’s lead. Magie hit the conversion and the Raptors never looked back.
From there, the Raptors added two more tries from John Quill and Ben Landry to give themselves a 24-7 lead heading into the half.
The Raptors picked up where they left off at the start of the second half. They logged their first try of the second half when speedy fullback Maximo de Achaval ran a sneaky inside line and took a pass from Dylan Fawsitt. The second try of the half came on a pass from Shaun Davies to wing Harley Davidson as they peeled off the blindside of a maul in Austin territory. Magie nailed all five of his conversions on the day to give the Raptors a 38-7 lead in the 47th minute.
It may have taken all afternoon, but the Elite eventually woke up and did their best to make things interesting.
It was big flanker Hanco Germishuys who helped stop the bleeding for Austin when he rumbled through two Glendale defenders on his way in for a try. After Germishuys, vice-captain Ben Mitchell took a crash ball in for Austin’s third try of the match. Guillimin nailed both conversions to cut into the Raptors lead but Austin still trailed 38-21 heading into the 60-minute hydration break.
Austin made a valiant effort to close the gap in the final 20 minutes of the match. After Magie missed a deep penalty goal, Austin capitalized with another try from Czarnecki who sprinted down the touchline and barely got the ball into the in-goal to make the score 38-26 with five minutes to play.
Just as Austin was mounting some momentum, Magie put the match on ice with a penalty goal in the final minute and the Raptors came away with a 41-26 victory that kickstarted their 7-1 inaugural season.
Tries: Connor Cook, John Quill, Ben Landry, Maximo de Achaval, Harley Davidson
Conversions: Will Magie (5/5)
Penalty Goals: Will Magie (2/3)
Austin Elite Rugby
Tries: Reece Czarnecki (2), Hanco Germishuys, Ben Mitchell
Conversions: Timothée Guillimin (3/4)
Penalty Goals: Timothée Guillimin (0/1)
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6. Gold Rush