Archive for the ‘Toronto Arrows’ Category

A busy week in the Heineken Cup sees a number of teams book their quarter final spots, and a fascinating five horse race for the last two runner up spots is on the agenda for this weekend.

Meanwhile this week saw plenty of developments ahead of the Six Nations as all but England have now named their squads.

Lastly Toronto Rugby fans and youngsters had a great day out last Saturday as the Arrows players held a morning of skills sessions with various age groups.

Heineken Champions Cup

Last weekend saw Exeter, Leinster, Toulouse and Racing 92 book their place in the playoffs, with Ulster securing the first of the three runner up spots. The remaining two spots though are very much up for grabs with Northhampton, Saracens and Gloucester leading the race but Glasgow and Munster are in with a shot albeit much slimmer and requiring a helping hand from some of the other teams doing battle this weekend, in addition to their own efforts.

As a result we’re in for a treat this weekend as some high stakes matches are on the cards. First up Northampton travel to France to take on Lyon who although finding it hard to replicate their Top 14 form, are still a daunting challenge at home. Furthermore, it is potentially a match of equals in terms of European competition as Northampton have also struggled to produce the kind of results on the European stage that have seen them made them such a force in the English Premiership this season.

Glasgow face a difficult trip south of Hadrian’s Wall to Sale, and in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, need to win with a bonus point as well as have La Rochelle do them a favor by upsetting Exeter.

Munster while having an easy go of it in their final pool match with an almost certain home bonus point win over the hapless Ospreys, will still need Racing 92 to overturn Saracens in North London on Sunday. Although Racing 92’s spot in the playoffs is assured there will still be plenty of motivation for them to upset the reigning champions as by doing so they would get the benefit of a home quarter final.

Lastly, although Toulouse are comfortably through to the playoffs, they will want to make it six from six by beating Gloucester. Gloucester have a difficult challenge ahead of them as they make the journey to a hotbed of French rugby which has seen a real resurgence in its fortunes of late. If Gloucester pull it off, which is a very tall order indeed, then the confidence it should give them would bode well for their fortunes come the playoffs.

In short some epic games lie in wait this weekend so make sure you don’t miss any of it, which is all covered here in Canada on DAZN, see TV listings pages for times.

Six Nations

The excitement mounts as everyone except England have laid out their stalls for the competition which starts in just over two weeks.

France have named a strong side that has taken stock of some of the exciting performances seen in the Heineken Cup so far, albeit with some notable exceptions. However, there is an exciting blend of experience and raw fresh talent that could provide us with a French team possessing both flair and considerable nous.

Ireland provided few surprises in giving Jonathan Sexton the captaincy, and while he is a class player through and through, much like Owen Farrell for England, we are not quite convinced that he is the right man for the job, but by the same token there are few if any in the current Ireland lineup who can match his experience and depth of understanding of the game’s subtleties. However, like Farrell he can get his team offside with the officials, and his attitude often doesn’t help the cause at such times. Nevertheless we feel that Coach Andy Farrell in his first outing as head Coach has made some positive choices in bringing in some new faces. Competition for the 9 jersey looks set to be fierce between Conor Murray and John Cooney. Ireland’s stocks at number eight continue to be strong despite an ongoing injury list and we are really looking forward to seeing Leinster sensation Caelan Doris get his first Irish cap.

Italy’s offerings are solid but still unlikely to help Italy over the hump of the wooden spoon once more this year. For us the forwards offer some real graft for Italy especially in the shape of Federico Ruzza and Jake Polledri. If the Italian backs can get some quality ball then there are plenty of slick runners for the Azurri, but consistent error free delivery remains a problem.

We also weren’t surprised to see Stuart Hogg get the Scotland Captain’s role, and expect fireworks from his fellow backs Graham Darcy (who was one of the standout players for us last competition) and Huw Jones. There are some exciting names up front as well, especially in Jamie Ritchie and Magnus Bradbury and expect George Horne to create some real excitement at scrum half along with the powerhouse duo of Finn Russell and Adam Hastings at fly half.

The big talking points in Wales’ selections are the inclusion of Gloucester superstar Louis Rees-Zammit. The 18 year old winger has been a revelation in the English premiership as well as making massive contributions to Gloucester’s European aspirations. Rhys Webb makes a return to the Welsh jersey at scrum half after a stint in France. However, Wales do not seem to suffer from a lack of quality scrum halves and Webb will really need to put his best forward to outshine Gareth Davies or Tomos Willams who in our opinion have the more impressive form going into the tournament.

The countdown to one of our favorite tournaments is on and we can’t wait!

Major League Rugby

As mentioned above, the Toronto Arrows held a community day last Saturday morning at the Toronto Soccerplex, and the players had coaching sessions with a variety of age groups. It was well attended and the kids clearly had a blast. In terms of making themselves accessible to their fans the Arrows are doing an admirable job as well as contributing to the development of a strong rugby grassroots community here in Toronto. It was great to meet with and chat to some of the players and the excitement is building to what promises to be another great season for Toronto in Major League Rugby.

That’s all from us this week. Head over to the TV listings page for our two picks of the weekend in terms of Heineken Cup action and broadcast times on DAZN.





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!!!!!

The scorers:

For Toronto:

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


In an emphatic 40-12 win over the Glendale Raptors at Lamport Stadium, the Toronto Arrows secure third spot in the league heading into the final game of the regular season this coming Sunday. It was a dominant performance which saw the home side make few if any mistakes, and secure a win that will give them huge confidence going into their final match with Rugby United New York this weekend.

As they have in most of their matches to date, Toronto got proceedings off to a flying start, with prop Morgan Mitchell bludgeoning his way through the Raptors defenses after a superb rolling maul which showed off Toronto’s complete dominance in the set pieces. Five minutes in and it was Toronto leading by five points after fly half Sam Malcolm missed a tricky conversion.

Glendale would hit back five minutes later after some sustained pressure in Toronto’s 22, and a rare lapse in concentration by the Arrows, saw Glendale scrum half Carlo de Nysschen dart across the line off a quick tap penalty. Glendale’s Fly half Will Magie would get the conversion and Glendale would enjoy their only lead of the match at 7-5.

Thereafter it was all Toronto, as the home side focused on getting not only the win but an all important bonus point as well. Toronto seemed to have given up on some of the slightly risky flat passing that had characterized some of their earlier performances and their lineouts showed some marked improvement. With a dominant scrum and better handling skills than the visitors, Toronto looked the more comfortable of the two sides especially under pressure.

A brilliant dummy from fullback Gaston Mieres would see Toronto regain the lead on the 16th minute, and this time Sam Malcolm would make no mistake with the conversion, putting the home side into a 12-7 lead.

Toronto continued to pile the pressure on the Raptors and ten minutes later number eight Luke Campbell would crash across the line after a prolonged period of possession and the home side’s scrum continuing to cause headaches for the visitors from Colorado. Toronto knew they were in with a shot at the bonus point, with just under an hour still to play, as they led 19-7.

And so it was as on the 33rd minute fullback Gaston Mieres once again put in a brilliant sniping run, that saw him weave his way past four defenders and secure Toronto their bonus point. Sam Malcolm was successful with the boot once more and Toronto went into half time with a commanding 26-7 lead.

Glendale would open the scoring early in the second half, as on the 45th minute centre Mika Kruse would take a superb pass floated out wide to find Toronto wanting on defense. Unfortunately Glendale were unable to secure the two points for the conversion and Toronto still found themselves with a comfortable 26-12 lead.

On the 53rd minutes Toronto scrum half Andrew Ferguson would spot an opportunistic gap in Glendale’s defenses in the visitors’ 22 and dive across for the home side’s fifth try. With fly half Sam Malcolm really finding his rhythm with the boot, Toronto further increased their lead to 33-12.

Just over ten minutes later another bout of sustained pressure from Toronto in the Raptors’ half, saw some dominant forward play allow replacement lock Tom van Horne to crash over for Toronto’s sixth try. Another successful conversion and with the score 40-12 for the home side and only 15 minutes left on the clock, Toronto knew they had got the job done.

Glendale would still try and take the fight to Toronto and looked close to getting a consolation try on the the stroke of full time, but centre Ata Malifa overcooked a chip through and the ball went out of bounds.

It had been a clinical and solid display from Toronto, and helped put them firmly in playoff contention. Barring a major slip up against Rugby United New York this coming Sunday in their final game of the regular season, Toronto should easily secure a place in the knockout stages. Furthermore a home playoff is now an an achievable ambition, if they can bring the same kind of intensity to Sunday’s match we saw against Glendale. New York sit in second place on the table just ahead of Toronto but three teams in the top four in the MLR sit on 53 points, so it really is right royal scrap for the knockout stages placings.

It was great to see over 2700 highly vocal fans in attendance last Sunday on a glorious spring afternoon. The stakes couldn’t be higher for our home town heroes this coming Sunday so if you’re in the Toronto area make sure you get out to Lamport and make some noise!



In Toronto’s first of four games at Lamport Stadium in the heart of downtown, they laid down a marker that they mean business for the rest of the season. In a gutsy fightback they ultimately stole the match at the death from the League’s top ranked team San Diego Legion. It was a nail biting affair from start to finish but Toronto were able to keep their wits about them and get their second win over the men from Southern California by 23-19. Having now beat the League’s top team this year as well as last year’s defending Champions Seattle, Toronto’s Arrows are building some impressive momentum as they head into a tough week which sees them play three matches in eight days .

There was no doubt that the move to Lamport Stadium was popular with fans as the East Terrace boasted a small but healthy crowd. It appeared that the Western Terrace was not available, but it is hoped it will be for the Arrows remaining matches at Lamport. Nevertheless a boisterous and vocal crowd were on hand and the rousing support they provided was acknowledged by an appreciative Captain Dan Moor at the end of the match. Toronto’s entry into professional rugby union would appear to be increasingly well received by local rugby fans. The day before the Arrows’ Rugby League compatriots the Wolfpack had also put visiting English side Bradford Bulls to the sword at Lamport Stadium, so rugby in general would appear to be going from strength to strength in the city.

In perfect conditions for running rugby Toronto poured on the pressure right from the opening whistle. The first five minutes saw the Arrows rooted in the Legion’s 22 and this would continue for much of the first half with Toronto dominating the territory and possession statistics. However, despite their lack of time with ball in hand San Diego proved adept at turning what little possession they did get into points on the board. Some quick ball from San Diego in their 22 would see them open up an otherwise resolute Toronto defense against the run of play, and the visitors get the first points on the board at the end of the first quarter, as South African centre JP du Plessis scored an excellent try. San Diego would miss the conversion and Toronto would answer three minutes later with a shot at goal from a penalty.

Toronto’s passing at times remained poor under pressure with them tending to play far too flat against San Diego’s rushing defense for our liking.. Although the Arrows lineout looked a lot more robust than it did in their first three outings back at home, there were still some worrying misfires at times.

San Diego’s try scorer du Plessis would see yellow on the 25 minute mark, but despite constant pressure Toronto were unable to take advantage of the visitors being a man down other than a successful penalty kick which put the home side ahead 6-5. Back to full strength once more San Diego would have the last laugh of the first half. Another flat pass from Toronto would be scooped up by San Diego and US Eagles fullback Mike Te’o to put the visitors ahead once more after capitalizing on some spilled Toronto ball. San Diego fly half Joe Pietersen made a successful conversion and the Californians headed into the break in the lead at 12-6.

Toronto would once again reassert their dominance in the physical battles and the possession stakes as the second half got underway. The pressure was clearly getting to San Diego and with it their discipline. Three minutes in Arrows fly half Sam Malcolm would slot another successful penalty and the gap was down to three points.

A tug of war would ensue between the two sides for the next twenty minutes but continued Toronto pressure would see another yellow card issued to San Diego for repeated high tackles. This time Toronto would make their one man advantage count and substitute back Leandro Leivas would score a fine try in the right hand corner. Malcolm would convert and all of a sudden the game was Toronto’s to lose with thirteen minutes left on the clock and the home side ahead by 16-12.

San Diego would then apply pressure of their own and three minutes later were back on top after a team try was finished off by fly half and Captain Joe Pietersen, despite some solid defending from Toronto.

With the visitors ahead once more 19-16 and three minutes left on the clock, Toronto had it all to do. Toronto piled on the pressure and once again San Diego’s discipline cracked as they earned yet another yellow card. With a minute and a half to go, Toronto made full use of their one man advantage and their power in their forwards to drive replacement hooker Stephen Ng across the line for the match winning try. Malcolm would make sure of the conversion and Toronto would seal a memorable win at the death 23-19.

The lively crowd had got their money’s worth in a glorious afternoon of sunshine and rugby. Toronto continue to edge closer to that elusive playoff spot, as although the win still sees them in sixth place on the table, they have a make up game against Austin this Thursday which they should win and thus project themselves into contention for a playoff spot. If they were to get a bonus point out of Thursday’s encounter in addition to a win they could well find themselves already in playoff contention by the time they meet the Utah Warriors on Sunday, who they thrashed 64-31 the last time the sides met.

There is no doubt that three games in eight days, even if they are all at home, is a tall order for Toronto but there is no denying the fact their tails are up.  A three game winning streak should give them confidence against two sides who they have already beaten this season. Still Captain Dan Moor was taking nothing for granted when he thanked supporters at the end of the match and looked ahead to a challenging week. Toronto still need to sharpen up some aspects of their game if they are to go all the way in this their first season in Major League Rugby. Nevertheless the will and ability are clearly there, and Sunday’s gritty performance showed that this team is more than capable of upsetting the odds and has no fear of the challenges that lie ahead. Once again if you’re in Toronto this week, make sure you play your part in helping to build the momentum!






Elusive it may still be but, after defeating last year’s Champions the Seattle Seawolves 29-7 at York Alumni Field on Sunday, a playoff spot is not completely out of reach for Major League Rugby’s 2019 debutantes the Toronto Arrows. Toronto put on their best show to date since returning to Toronto for the remainder of the MLR season. It was a thrilling encounter that got the 2000 plus crowd on their feet on a regular basis, courtesy of four well worked tries by Toronto which secured them a valuable bonus point in addition to the win.

The match was preceded by an emotional moment as Ray Barkwill, Canada’s veteran hooker, marked his last day as a professional player with an honorary one day contract with the Toronto Arrows. Barkwill who turned out 56 times for Canada decided to call time on an illustrious and proud rugby career. The 38 year-old Niagara Falls native was given a rousing reception and sendoff by the crowd and it is hoped, now that he is back home in Ontario, he will keep a close association with the Arrows and their continued success.

Barkwill himself played for the Seattle Seawolves last year, and the American team boasted some strong Canadian content, most notably in the shape of prop Djustice Sears Duru, flanker Nakai Penny, scrum half Phil Mack and winger Brock Staller – with Staller being one of our Canadian players to watch in 2019.

The first half was a tight affair, but the Arrows looked the more composed and focused side. However, once again the Arrows passing at times looked speculative and they were lucky that the Seawolves did not bring their handling game to Toronto. A few miracle no look passes by Toronto did end up being intercepted by Seattle, but outstanding defense from the Arrows and constant handling errors from the Seawolves ensured that no damage was done, despite center Shalom Suniula looking dangerous all match for the visitors.

Nevertheless Toronto were the dominant side from the outset, with their scrum in particular causing Seattle all kinds of grief. The Arrows continued to be inconsistent at lineout time, but that was the only flaw in an otherwise outstanding performance. A strong breeze was also making kicking and lineout duties a challenge for both sides. Seattle were kicking into the wind in the first half and were having a torrid time making their aerial game translate into any kind of useful territory or possession.

In a tight encounter from both sides, the scoreboard would not turnover until the 25 minute mark. Toronto fly half Sam Malcolm would do the honors for Toronto courtesy of a penalty kick. Five minutes later Toronto’s Uruguayan winger Leandro Leivas would be the subject of Toronto’s only disciplinary blemish, as he was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on. Despite being reduced to 14 men, Toronto’s outstanding defense across the park continued to hold firm and they managed to apply some solid pressure on the visitors, resulting in a superb try for big second rower Michael Sheppard. Malcolm would miss the conversion, but Toronto would end the half 8-0 and clearly looked like they were starting to build some momentum.

On returning to the field after sitting out the last ten minutes of the first half, winger Leivas redeemed himself in spectacular fashion at the start of the second half. Centre Giuseppe du Toit spotted the gap off a lovely pass from replacement scrum half Jamie Mackenzie and Leivas finished the job for Toronto’s second try.

Seattle would strike back in a rare defensive lapse from Toronto, as center Shuniula, who had threatened all match, would be put into some wide open space in the inside channel by Seawolves scrum half Phil Mack. Toronto’s defense in their 22, which had looked dramatically better since their last outings against the Sabrecats and NOLA Gold, would get caught napping and a relatively soft try put Seattle back in the match with eighteen minutes left on the clock.

However, that seemed to be the wake up call Toronto needed and they never let up for the rest of the match. The highlight of the game would come in the 69th minute from Captain and Toronto native Dan Moor. A brilliant break down the right wing off some spilled Seattle ball saw the Arrows Captain put in a flying finish from just outside the Arrows 22 and jot the ball down for Toronto’s third try. The crowd rose as one and for the final 10 minutes Toronto simply allowed Seattle no say in the match.

The icing on the cake would come in the 75th minute, as with Moor once more in the thick of things deep in Seattle’s 22, the ball would work its way out to Canadian International second rower Paul Ciulini, who would effortlessly get the ball down between the posts allowing for an easy conversion. Toronto continued to keep up the pressure till the final whistle and although no further points would come their way, it had been an emphatic second half display from the Arrows. The elation on players and fans faces alike was a joy to watch.

Toronto head into their next match with the San Diego Legion, who currently lead the league, full of confidence after such a solid performance against Seattle. Cut out some of the risky passing, build on what is an excellent defensive platform, consolidate a powerful scrum and tidy up some of the lineout work and Toronto will be a force to reckon with, as they head to Lamport Stadium in Toronto’s Liberty village for their remaining four home games before the playoffs. There is still a long way to go before Toronto can comfortably see themselves securing a spot in the knockout stages, but last Sunday’s performance has made it an achievable ambition once more.

We have really enjoyed the quality of rugby on display, and the enthusiasm of the crowd for Toronto’s latest professional sports venture. Furthermore with so many Canadian Internationals in the Arrows side, it is a lot like getting out there and cheering on the national team, until the franchise can hopefully expand to more Canadian cities. Sunday’s game against San Diego is a high stakes venture for the Arrows, and it is our hope that as many people as possible can come out to support a team that is really starting to click and make their city and country proud. Whatever you’re doing this Sunday, if you love the sport of rugby union and you’re in the Toronto area you know where you need to be!


20190407_135922In only their second home game of the season Toronto’s Major League Rugby Franchise, the Arrows, put in a solid performance to overcome the Houston Sabercats 35-21 and put them back in contention for a possible playoff spot.

After their rousing home opener against New Orleans a fortnight ago, which saw the Arrows get edged out by the visitors in the dying minutes of a thrilling contest, Sunday’s clash with the Houston Sabercats was a much-needed tonic for players and fans alike. While the attendance was sadly only half of that of the match against New Orleans, it is hoped that the win and some sterner competition in the shape of the Seattle Seawolves will fill the stands once more at York Lions Stadium.

Once again Toronto fans will be concerned at their side’s seemingly porous defence at times in their own 22, but heartened by the fact that the for the most part they are able to stand firm in the rest of the park. Furthermore unlike in the match against New Orleans, Toronto were able to put all the pressure on the opposition in a strong final ten minutes to seal the win. Toronto had a purple patch towards the end of the first half that carried through into the first ten minutes of the second half, which saw them leak 21 unanswered points allowing Houston to draw level. However unlike the match against New Orleans a fortnight earlier, Toronto were able to regroup and stamp their authority on the remainder of the match.

Toronto got proceedings off to a flying start early on in much the same manner as they did against New Orleans a fortnight ago. Lock Kolby Francis peeled away from an effective maul to get Toronto’s first points on the board. Minutes later Toronto fans would feel justifiably robbed as the officials somehow missed flanker Lucas Rumball squeaking the ball onto the line under a pile of bodies. However, fullback Theo Sauder would make amends by touching down from a lovely floated pass out the back of the ensuing scrum. Fly half Sam Malcolm would convert and only 12 minutes in Toronto found themselves ahead 12-0.

Five minutes later after another bruising passage of play from Toronto’s forward pack, Hooker Andrew Quattrin dotted the ball down for the home side after a superb lineout drive. Malcolm converted and on the half hour Toronto found themselves 21-0 up.

The next twenty minutes however are ones the home side will most likely want to forget. Whether it was complacency or a lack of concentration, we’ll never know but Toronto took their foot off the gas and paid dearly for it. In some chaotic defending in their 22, Toronto got caught off guard allowing Houston fullback Zach Pangelinan to score a soft try.

Five minutes later and as the halftime whistle was about to be blown, Toronto were again caught napping in their 22. Houston Hooker Pat O’Toole appeared to have acres of space to operate in as Toronto simply looked on in what was some truly sloppy defence again in their 22. Two soft tries in five minutes and Houston were right back in the match as the teams headed off for the half time break.

Houston’s scrum had looked solid and clearly buoyed by their resurgence at the end of the first half, they came storming back into the second and used their strength in the set pieces to maximum advantage. Toronto once again struggled under pressure in their 22 and with it their discipline suffered allowing the Saber Cats to be awarded a penalty try. With the scores now level Toronto and their fans were left wondering how such a dominant performance in the first 30 minutes had evaporated.

However, Houston’s third score appeared to be the wakeup call Toronto needed. On the 52 minute mark, Toronto would take advantage of Houston’s continuous handling errors in the back line, and after some sustained pressure as a result of some spilled ball by Houston, Toronto’s forward pack would take up residence on the visitors’ five metre line. This would ultimately see second rower Michael Sheppard crash over for Toronto’s bonus point try.

Toronto’s defence had always looked solid in the midfield but by now they appeared to have shored up their earlier problems in their own 22. For the remainder of the match despite some concerted efforts from Houston, they would hold firm and keep the visitors frustrated and at bay. Replacement Arrows winger Kainoa Lloyd would put the icing on the cake in the 67th minute after pouncing on yet another spilled ball from the visitors, and in a 60 metre sprint that got the crowd on their feet would dot it down under the posts for an easy conversion.

Houston would continue to fight to the end, but their execution at times just wasn’t there and Toronto appeared to have recovered from the lapses in concentration that had almost undone them at the end of the first half. Houston threw the kitchen sink at the Arrows but the Toronto side held firm.

The win sees Toronto make a valuable points haul including a bonus point try, though they will be kicking themselves for leaking those 21 points when such differences come into play in determining playoff spots. Nevertheless it was an important win and one which should help build some confidence for a much tougher tussle against third placed Seattle Seawolves this coming Sunday. There is still a lot of work to do, but Toronto rugby union fans can take great heart in seeing a home-grown team that boasts so much local talent, doing so well in what should be an excellent run of home games in only their first season in Major League Rugby.




Canada’s first foray into professional rugby union, as represented by the Toronto Arrows, saw Major League Rugby play its first game on Canadian soil this afternoon at York University’s Lions Stadium. While the Arrows suffered a narrow loss to New Orleans Gold by 35-31, as an event it was definitely something to savor. We were delighted to be there and felt it heralded a bright start to the growth of professional rugby in this country. Toronto have played their first eight games away from home, and their remaining eight of the season will be played in Toronto in order to fit around the vagaries of Toronto winter weather in February and March.

Sunday’s match saw Toronto play their first game in front of their home fans against current Major League Rugby’s top ranked team, New Orleans or NOLA Gold as they are known as. It was a sellout crowd and despite problems with the scoreboard keeper clearly having difficulty understanding the scoring etiquette of rugby union, leading to some interesting scores posted early in the match, Toronto’s first home game was clearly a big hit with an enthusiastic and very vocal sellout crowd of 3,081.

Toronto came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders and would get the first points on the board in just two minutes through an excellent try out wide from winger Dan Moor. From there NOLA would hit back and put in a solid shift for the next 12 minutes which would see them score three tries. The first was a penalty try at the seven minute mark after some solid defence up front from Toronto but their discipline started to take a hit in what was proving to be a very physical challenge being put in by both sides. To be honest we felt the refereeing at times seemed slightly off the mark, with some calls clearly not going Toronto’s way. In a few instances this gave way to some justified righteous indignation from Captain and number 8 Lucas Rumball, who himself was the subject of one slightly suspect call which ultimately would contribute to the buildup towards NOLA’s first points on the board through a penalty try.

With the scores level, NOLA bagged two quick and relatively soft tries. The first from NOLA fullback JP Eloff exposed some of Toronto’s defensive frailties out wide, while the second from South African born centre Tristan Blewett was a gift as Arrows fly half Sam Malcolm threw a wildly speculative cutout pass that was superbly read by the NOLA centre.

Toronto however was clearly having the advantage in the scrum as a series of scrum penalties went their way. They used their set piece dominance to full advantage and ultimately released Uruguayan fullback Gaston Mieres out wide in the corner for their second try, even if some of the passing seemed slightly overambitious at times – a characteristic that typified much of Toronto’s first half. While it certainly thrilled the home crowd with an exciting display of free-flowing attacking rugby at times, it no doubt left the coaching staff with a few more grey hairs.

NOLA would soon hit back and in a period of sustained pressure in Toronto’s 22, prop Ben Tarr would crash over to give the Americans their fourth try and a comfortable lead heading towards half time.

Canadian International and NOLA lock Kyle Baillie would pick up a yellow card for a high tackle with five minutes to go in the half, forcing NOLA to see out the half with just fourteen men. Toronto would use it to their advantage to strike back once more through Mieres in the last act of the first half, as the flying Uruguayan showed off some fancy footwork to dot the ball down in the corner once more off the back of a Toronto lineout. It had been a frenetic but highly entertaining first half and the crowd had clearly enjoyed it as the teams headed into the break with NOLA in front 28-19. However, Toronto’s organization had let them down at times coupled with some overly ambitious attacking play. They needed to head into the second half looking more structured and better organized defensively.

Toronto had to score first in the second half and proceeded to do just that. After some solid pressure on NOLA, which showed Toronto’s physicality count once more, scrum half Andrew Ferguson would get the Arrows fourth try off the back of a scrum after Toronto had spent much of the first ten minutes camped in NOLA’s 22. At 26-28 it was definitely game on and the home crowd really began to get behind the Arrows.

Another solid passage of play from Toronto would see prop Morgan Mitchell crash over for Toronto’s fifth try and put the home side in the lead at 31-28. Toronto looked tighter and much better organised in the second half, and their defence for the most part was outstanding particularly in midfield. However, it needed to be as from this point on NOLA slowly started to exert a stranglehold on the match and were beginning to dominate the possession stakes.

NOLA were still being made to do all the hard work despite having more of the possession and were continuing to have to run from deep, with Toronto effectively shutting down their assaults on the halfway mark. However, with five minutes to go, NOLA managed to find some chinks in the Arrows armor. Some poor discipline at the end under pressure would ultimately see Toronto concede the try that would see their first home game end in a loss, as NOLA fly half Scott Gale would find the gap that up to that point had been eluding his side close to the try line. At the final whistle NOLA would emerge the victors 35-31 but knew they had been made to work for every inch of it in a highly entertaining match that provided a worthy spectacle as the Arrows first home game. Had Toronto been slightly more effective in converting their tries from the kicking tee, then it could easily have been a draw, as NOLA managed to slot all their shots at goal.

Despite the loss there is no doubt that Toronto’s first home game can be classed as a raging success. The loud and enthusiastic local support was there for everyone to see, and the team rose to the occasion. They were unlucky to lose, but to hold the top team in the league as close as they did, will surely mean that with a run of seven home games till the knockout stages, the next two months should be very productive for the Arrows. Boasting a healthy contingent of some of Canadian rugby’s most promising young talent, today’s match was an excellent advertisement for the development of the game in this country and we look forward with great enthusiasm to the remainder of the Toronto Arrows’ promising start in North American professional rugby!