Legion Upset Raptors in Final Regular Season Match
Legion Upset Raptors in Final Regular Season Match
By: Colton Strickler, MLR Correspondent
It took until Week 10, but the San Diego Legion finally handed the Glendale Raptors their first Major League Rugby loss.
The first place Raptors (7-1), headed west to San Diego to take on the Legion (5-3) looking to finish the inaugural season with an unblemished 8-0 record heading into the MLR Playoffs. The Legion had other plans, though, and sent the Raptors back to Glendale with a 23-5 loss and some work to do before next week’s playoff matchup.
Having already played the Raptors once this season, a May 13 matchup that Glendale ultimately won 31-17, San Diego proved to be one of the few teams early on that could give Glendale a run for their money. Having placed Glendale on the ropes once already this season, they made sure to finish the job on Saturday.
“We had a great opportunity to win in Glendale with the last play of the game,” San Diego head coach Rob Hoadley said after the match. “We were incredibly disappointed to waste that chance and lose the game. So much has happened in the league since then, however, and both sides have evolved, so I don’t think that had a major bearing on the game here.”
The deciding factor in Saturday’s match was the Legion’s ability to capitalize on their chances while the Raptors, on the other hand, couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. Between conceding untimely penalties and committing several handling errors, the Raptors didn’t do themselves any favors while facing a Legion team that came to play.
“Our appetite to keep our winning home record was critical in driving our work rate on defense,” Hoadley said of the difference in the match. “The set piece gave us a good platform and it was great to see a forwards driving try alongside a fantastic team try finished by a clinical run from halfway by Ryan Matyas.”
“San Diego played with good physicality and width when needed,” Glendale head coach David Williams said after the match.
Every time the Raptors slipped up, the Legion were quick to capitalize.
San Diego jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead when fly-half Tadgh Leader knocked a penalty kick through the posts just three minutes into the match.
Having jumped out to a small lead so quickly, the persistent Legion threatened to score just a few minutes later when a San Diego player attempted to dive over the breakdown and into the in-goal, but knocked the ball on in the process.
Part of San Diego’s success early on was their ability to make the Raptors play a majority of the first half deep in their own territory. They won territory battle by being physical in both attack and defense, and that resulted in another Leader penalty kick in the 20th minute to give them a 6-0 lead.
While Glendale’s offense began to show some signs of life just before halftime, the knock-ons began to rear their ugly heads. The Raptors went into halftime down 6-0, marking the first time all season they had been held scoreless for an entire half.
Not much changed for the Raptors when the second half began. The only thing that changed for the Legion was that they began scoring tries instead of settling for penalty goals.
The first try of the match came in the 48th minute when outside centre Ryan Matyas kept the ball on a dummy switch, taking 60 meters down the touchline before circling back towards the posts. Leader converted, giving the Legion a commanding 13-0 lead.
The Legion set their sights on scoring more points.
After turning the ball over deep in Glendale territory, the Legion struck back with another attack that placed them right back in scoring distance. In an attempt to stop San Diego from adding to their lead, Glendale’s eight-man Sam Figg was given a yellow card for entering the ruck from the side.
Just like they’d done all game, San Diego made them pay. Just one minute later flanker Tony Lamborn rode a driving maul into the in-goal for a try. Leader’s conversion extended the lead to 20-0 heading into the second water break, and it was clear that the Raptors would have to work quickly if they wanted to keep their perfect record intact.
With Glendale’s backs against the wall, the Legion just kept coming.
Raptors hooker Zach Fenoglio had a chance to put an end to the scoreless drought in the 70th minute when he rode a driving maul into the in-goal himself but coughed it up just before he went to ground the ball. The Raptors finished the match with 14 handling errors. Leader nailed another penalty kick just two minutes later to give the Legion a 23-0 lead with just eight minutes to play.
The Raptors finally found their way onto the scoreboard in the 79th minute when Grigor Kerdikoshvili took a pick-and-go in for a try, bringing the final score to 23-5.
While the Raptors were playing to achieve perfection, the Legion had to plenty to play for as well. With the four points that they picked up in the win over the Raptors, they jumped over the Utah Warriors and into third place in the standings to finish the season with 24 points ahead of the MLR Playoffs. Instead of taking on the Raptors in back-to-back weeks, they’ll take on the second place Seattle Seawolves in the first round of the tournament.
“We just look to improve each week, and will have to do so again to take on a strong Seattle side next Saturday,” Hoadley said. “We will get back to work on a new challenge this week, and have a group that will be desperate to put in another performance to be proud of.”
The Raptors, on the other hand, did not pick up any points in the loss and finished the season in first place with 34 points. They’ll head home to take on the fourth place Utah Warriors in the first round of the MLR playoffs.
“We need to have a response this week leading into the semis against Utah,” Williams said.
The MLR Playoffs will take place on Saturday, June 30 at Infinity Park in Glendale, CO. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.
San Diego Legion
Tries: Ryan Matyas, Tony Lamborn
Penalties: Tadgh Leader (3/4)
Conversions: Tadgh Leader (2/2)
Tries: Grigor Kerdikoshvili
Conversions: Maximo de Achaval (0/1)
Colton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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