Arrows Score 24 Unanswered Points to Stun Legion
The Toronto Arrows (3-3) snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat and stunned the San Diego Legion (4-2) 27-20 on Sunday evening.
Coming off a 22-0 loss in 11-degree weather a week earlier, it looked as if the Arrows were dead in the water for the second week in a row. They trailed a Legion team that had only conceded eight tries through five games 20-3 early in the second half and hadn’t shown much of an ability to be able to crack the stout San Diego defense.
“We came out flat in the first half,” Toronto Arrows Director of Rugby Chris Silverthorn said after the match. “I think, it’s been a rough few weeks, and we just came out flat.”
The Arrows needed something to wake them up, and that something turned out to be 19-year-old wing Avery Oitomen.
Toronto’s lack of intensity dug them a 17-point hole to work their way out of, and San Diego fly-half Joe Pietersen helped them dig. Pietersen created space and fed Jordan Manihera for the first try of the match in just the first minute. His boot was responsible for the conversions on both Manihera’s and Psalm Wooching’s first-half tries, a penalty goal to close out the half and a drop goal to open the second half.
Unfortunately for San Diego, the scoring dried up after that.
“We failed to close the game out after a very good first 50 minutes,” San Diego Legion head coach Rob Hoadley said after the match. “All credit goes to Toronto for a tremendous fight back. We failed to make the necessary adjustments to stop their momentum after the first try. It was a very poor last 30 minutes by us and ultimately got what we deserved for our lack of quality.”
“I think our guys responded well,” Silverthorn said of his team’s ability to bounce back from a 20-3 second-half deficit. “We regrouped at half time, went back to fundamentals and kind of challenged about increasing the intensity and physicality and they responded well. They created the holes, things opened up and here we are.”
The only points that the Arrows were able to muster up in the first half was in the form of a Sam Malcolm penalty goal. Malcolm, who had a perfect night in the kicking game, nailed a crucial penalty goal in the match’s final minutes that forced San Diego to have to score a try and kick the conversion to tie the match.
“He’s been top-notch. He’s the ultimate professional.” Silverthorn said of Malcolm. “I’ve never come across someone so mentally tough. He’s just always switched on and looking to improve himself. It just kind of shows the New Zealand way and it’s carried over to the other players. He’s just a consummate professional.”
The Arrows first try of the match came on a bit of a different sequence. A line break put them just mere inches away from a try when an offsides penalty on the Legion called for a five-meter scrum. The ensuing phases saw the Legion’s dominant defense push the Arrows’ attack backward a good 20-meters before Oitomen took a flat pass with a full head of steam and sliced through the line, wiggled away from the fullback and dove in for the try. Malcolm’s conversion cut the Legion’s lead to 10 with just under 30 minutes to play.
Toronto didn’t have to wait much longer to add to their score. It was only two minutes later that Oitomen sliced through the line for his second try of the match and fifth in six matches.
The Legion clung to a three-point lead into the 60-minute hydration mark.
It wasn’t long after the water break that Toronto hooker Andrew Quattrin barreled through the San Diego defensive line and rumbled his way down just shy of the try line. Lock Mike Sheppard finished Quattrin’s work with a try moments later. Malcolm’s conversion gave the Arrows a 24-20 lead, their first of the match, in the 65th minute.
Even after Malcolm’s successful penalty kick in the 72nd minute gave the Arrows a 27-20 lead, the Legion threatened one last time but their attack came to a halt with an unfortunate penalty in stoppage time.
“Our lack of execution cost us, but I wouldn’t want to take anything away from Toronto who were superb in that period,” Hoadley said.
The four points that the Arrows picked up in the win give them 16 on the season and leaves them in sixth place. They trail RUNY, San Diego and a playoff spot by just two points. San Diego 19 points on the season leaves them two spots ahead of Toronto.
The Arrows will travel to New York to take on RUNY next Friday night in a match that will see them return a number of starters. San Diego will travel to Glendale to take on the Raptors on Saturday evening.
“Well Glendale is the form team in the MLR at the moment so it’s a fantastic challenge for us,” Hoadley said. “I think we have to go back to the basics that served us so well in the first half against Toronto and we are very excited for this quick opportunity to make amends for tonight’s result.”
“We are bringing in seven guys this week from Canada and Uruguay, so the future looks bright,” Silverthorn said. “Our focus this week is going to be getting our guys to recover in time to play on Friday.”
San Diego Legion
Tries: Jordan Manihera, Psalm Wooching
Conversions: Joe Pietersen (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Joe Pietersen (1/1)
Drop Goals: Joe Pietersen (1/1)
Tries: Avery Oitomen (2), Mike Sheppard
Conversions: Sam Malcolm (3/3)
Penalty Goals: Sam Malcolm (2/2)
Drop Goals: N/A
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Since Major League Rugby began, San Diego has been one of
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