In a titanic struggle with fellow playoff hopefuls Rugby United New York, the Toronto Arrows kept fans on the edge of their seats until a 77th minute drop goal from fly half Sam Malcolm would secure a 22-20 victory for the Arrows, and that coveted spot in the finals. Toronto will kick themselves for not getting the bonus point try which could have secured them a home semi-final as well as allowing their rivals a losing bonus point. However, for a team’s first season in Major League Rugby they and their fans can still feel pleased and proud of a remarkable regular season that has shown that the sport of rugby union is in rather rude health in Toronto.
This was a punishing match from the outset with both sides evenly matched and literally throwing the kitchen sink at each other, as the game seesawed from end to end in the opening 15 minutes. New York would get the first points on the board through a relatively soft try as winger Mike St. Claire found himself in plenty of open space down the blind side.
Toronto would strike back ten minutes later through a lovely passage of play from their own lineout. Spreading the ball right across the field in some silky running and deft passing, winger Leandro Leivas would put his fellow winger and Captain Dan Moor in space through a brilliant one-handed offload after beating two defenders. Moor would touch down and although Sam Malcolm would miss the conversion Toronto were back in the hunt trailing 7-5.
Toronto would continue piling the pressure on New York and four minutes later after a prolonged period in New York’s 22, center Spencer Jones would spot a comfortable gap just outside the posts and dot it down for Toronto’s second five pointer. Malcolm would get the easy conversion and Toronto would draw ahead 12-7. Some heroic defending from Toronto would see them close out the half with their lead intact.
New York came out of the blocks firing after the break, and Toronto by comparison had what could only be described as a purple patch for the opening quarter of the second half. They seemed to lack focus and shape and New York took full advantage of the home side’s lapses in concentration. Once more Toronto’s habit of passing dreadfully flat against a rush defense cost them dearly, as a pass that was so obvious it was probably in the previous week’s papers, was intercepted by the visitors’ blindside flanker John Quill. The New Yorker ran completely unopposed for almost half the length of the field to jot it down between the sticks for a straightforward conversion.
Toronto continued to struggle to find their shape and with it their discipline, allowing New York’s fly half Cathal Marsh two relatively simple penalty kicks and enabling the visitors to pull ahead 20-12.
A shot of espresso in the Arrows water bottles was clearly called for and seemed to have the desired effect as the team regained their composure in the 65th minute. Toronto would exert some genuine pressure on the visitors as they set up camp in New York’s 22. It had the desired effect as New York began to lose their discipline. A quick tap penalty from replacement scrum half Andrew Ferguson would see the number nine dive across for Toronto’s third try. Malcolm would not miss with the boot and all of a sudden the game was on a knife edge at 20-19 for New York and 14 minutes left on the clock.
The next ten minutes would see a pitched battle between two evenly matched sides, with neither able to gain the advantage. Then in the 76th minute with Toronto applying another period of sustained pressure in New York’s 22, fly half Sam Malcolm would drop into the pocket and slot the perfect drop goal. The stands erupted as one, and Toronto had that all important lead, albeit by a mere two points with three minutes left on the clock.
Toronto would maintain their composure in the dying minutes of the game, despite New York piling on the pressure. Toronto held firm and after a dominant scrum by the home side in the 80th minute, Andrew Ferguson would kick it into touch knowing that Toronto’s big adventure would continue beyond this, the final match of the regular season.
While Toronto will kick themselves for going off the boil for that crucial opening quarter in the second half, as well as not getting a bonus point try and at the same time allowing their rivals a losing bonus point, it was a historic win. The jubilation on players and fans’ faces alike was there for all to see. The party is not over yet and while there is still plenty of work to do and things to fix, there is no denying that this has been a dream start for Canada’s first team to compete in Major League Rugby.
Toronto now face a tough trip out to the Pacific Northwest to face Seattle’s Seawolves in the semi-finals. Toronto comfortably beat Seattle when they came to York University’s Alumni field in April, but in Seattle it was a tight contest back in February which saw the Seawolves who are defending MLR champions come out on top.
Whatever happens next Sunday in Seattle, Toronto rugby union fans have been treated to 8 glorious games of rugby, and the Arrows have made some real inroads into the city’s sporting landscape this spring. We have thoroughly enjoyed turning out every Sunday since April and wish the boys all the very best in Seattle this coming Sunday. Furthermore given the fact that so many of the team are from Ontario, it has done wonders for the profile of the sport in the province. In addition, many of the players who have made their presence felt over the last few months, are likely to be on the plane to Japan in three months time to represent Canada in the World Cup. They’ve made us proud and we have a hunch they’re not done yet! And as for next season…….WE CAN’T WAIT!!!!!
Tries: D. Moor, S. Jones, A. Ferguson
Conversions: S. Malcolm 2
For New York:
Tries: M. St. Claire, J Quill
Conversions: C Marsh 2
Penalties: C Marsh 2
Toronto: 1 Rob Brouwer, 2 Andrew Quattrin, 3 Morgan Mitchell, 4 Mike Sheppard, 5 Paul Ciulini, 6 Peter Milazzo, 7 John Moonlight, 8 Luke Campbell, 9 Jamie Mackenzie, 10 Sam Malcolm, 11 Leandro Leivas, 12 Guiseppe du Toit, 13 Spencer Jones, 14 Dan Moor, 15 Gaston Mieres. Replacements: 16 Steven Ng, 17 Pat Lynott, 18 Cole Keith, 19 Tom Van Horne, 20 Marcello Wainwright, 21 Andrew Ferguson, 22 Pat Parfrey, 23 Kainoa Lloyd
New York: 1 James Rochford, 2 Dylan Fawsitt, 3 Patrick Ryan, 4 Trevor Cassidy, 5 Nathaniel Brakeley, 6 John Quill, 7 Matthew Hughston, 8 Ross Deacon, 9 Michael Petri, 10 Cathal Marsh, 11 Michael St. Claire, 12 William Leonard, 13 Mark O’Keefe, 14 Connor Wallace-Sims, 14 Ben Foden. Replacements: 16 Callum Mackintosh, 17 Chance Wenglewski, 18 Anthony Parry, 19 Alexander MacDonald, 20 James Denise, 21 Harry Bennett, 22 Christopher Mattina, 23 Marcus Satavu