Raptors Defeat Seawolves in a Battle of Heavyweights
Photo: Steven Seiller – Summit Lights Photography
Raptors Defeat Seawolves in a Battle of Heavyweights
By: Colton Strickler, MLR Correspondent
The Glendale Raptors took their 1-0 record to the Pacific Northwest for a rain-soaked slugfest against the Seattle Seawolves on Saturday night.
In front of a sold-out crowd at Starfire Sports Complex and under the pouring rain, the Raptors (2-0) made the most of their chances and were able to defeat a strong Seawolves (1-1) side by a score of 19-15.
It was apparent what kind of match it was going to be early on. With arguably two of the strongest packs in Major League Rugby, it was going to be settled by the forwards, and it was up to each side’s backline to put their forwards in a position to succeed. The Raptors did that by exploiting the space behind Seattle’s line.
“We spoke all week about winning the physicality,” Raptors’ forwards’ coach Ted Browner said via text message. “We need to do that to allow us to play our pattern.”
Any time Glendale fly-half Will Magie or fullback Maximo De Achaval had the opportunity to kick, they took it and were able to keep the field positioning in their favor as a result. According to Seawolves’ scrumhalf Phil Mack, Glendale’s ability to stay organized and catch Seattle when they weren’t organized was ultimately the difference in the match.
“We knew that they were going to be organized and I think looking at this competition, the teams that can stay organized the longest seem to be having some successful results,” Mack said over the phone after the loss. “I think Glendale was really organized in areas that I think we were lacking. They are an organized team and they know what they’re doing as a squad, so full credit to them.”
After some ping pong by both Glendale and Seattle’s counter-attacks, Seattle was called for not rolling away down inside their territory, and Magie capitalized with a penalty kick to get the scoring started.
A penalty shortly after the ensuing kick-off saw the Raptors pack – down three starters from last week – face off against a Seattle scrum that forced the San Diego Legion to commit three penalty tries. Seattle was able to get a push for a majority of the evening, but Glendale never ran from an opportunity to scrum.
“Our lads stayed with the pattern for 80 minutes,” Browner said. “They trusted our processes and we think that showed in the last 20 minutes.”
Glendale was able to work down into the Seawolves territory multiple times, but the Seawolves’ defense held strong. The pressure they were able to put on Glendale’s backline, combined with the rain, led to several handling issues.
According to Mack, the handling issues were a representation of both team’s willingness to take the necessary chances they needed to win.
“The way the game is played now you have to take chances or you won’t be successful,” Mack said. “We wanted to spin the ball and so did they, and that was a large reason that there were so many handling errors because both teams weren’t afraid to make mistakes.”
Some more back and forth eventually put Magie in a position to convert on his second penalty kick of the evening, and he gave Glendale a 6-0 lead. The Raptors took the ensuing kick off right back down into Seattle territory, but the knock-ons in the Glendale backline would again grind the advance to a halt.
Having retreated a few meters out, Raptors’ flanker Zach Fenoglio received the ball in space and snuck a grubber right behind the Seawolves’ fullback. He chased his own kick and was rewarded with the first try of the match. Magie couldn’t convert the kick and the Raptors settled into an 11-0 lead.
The Seawolves made sure that they didn’t go into the sheds empty handed though. Seattle’s Brock Staller nailed a penalty kick to cut into the Raptors lead right before halftime.
Glendale began the second half the same way they began the match. They kicked to space and waited for the chances to present themselves.
Glendale worked their way down deep into Seattle territory before the Seawolves’ flanker Vili Toluta’u poached the ball and took it all the way across midfield. Magie then intercepted a Seawolves’ pass and kicked back down into Seattle territory, stopping their first real chance before it ever began.
The next pivotal play came on a Glendale lineout when Raptors’ scrumhalf Shaun Davies shifted the Seattle defense with a dummy that allowed him to slice deep behind the line. Flanker Peter Dahl sent the ball to wing Harley Davidson a few phases later and he dotted the ball down in the corner for Glendale’s final try of the match. Glendale led 16-3 after the missed conversion.
On their next possession, the Seawolves answered back with a big scrum that led to a Raptors’ penalty. Mack quick-tapped the ball and pushed Glendale back to their own zone, allowing Toluta’u to finish off the try.
It seemed like the Seawolves’ pack was beginning to wear down the Raptors.
“I think it was due to our forwards exerting a bit of pressure on them and they started to kind of get the upper hand in the scrum,” Mack said. “I just decided to have a go and luckily the boys reacted according got one over the line. I thought our forwards played phenomenally well tonight.”
Staller converted the kick and the Raptors lead by six with time winding down.
Glendale’s next possession turned out to be the most important one of the match. The Raptors worked their way into Seattle territory and forced Seattle into committing a penalty in the scrum. Magie converted the penalty kick which put the game on ice.
Despite being down 19-10, Seattle didn’t quit. They were able to muscle their way down the field for one last try as time expired. George Barton was awarded the try, Staller missed the conversion and the Raptors escaped victorious.
Seattle’s late efforts earned them a bonus point and also showed Mack what his team can do.
“I think to put a try in like that given the scoreline just shows the belief that the boys have in each other,” Mack said. “When you do have a squad that’s building, the guys are playing for each other and not giving up. You can do a lot of things with a squad that doesn’t quit. I’m extremely happy with that.”
The Raptors moved into sole possession of first place with the win while the Seawolves dropped down to second. Glendale will travel to Utah to take on the Warriors next Saturday while Seattle will enjoy a week off.
Tries: Zach Fenoglio, Harley Davidson
Penalties: Will Magie (3/4)
Conversions: Will Magie (0/2)
Tries: Vili Toluta’u, George Barton
Penalties: Brock Staller (1/1)
Conversions: Brock Staller (1/2)
Colton can be reached at email@example.com
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