Colton’s Corner: Week 15 & Toronto’s Wild Season
Colton’s Corner will be a weekly feature on five topics from around MLR.
NOLA Beats Austin, Jumps Back into First Place
The Gold took care of business against Austin Elite Rugby on Saturday afternoon to jump back into first place in the table. Leapfrogging the San Diego Legion required a little help from the Toronto Arrows, but NOLA has to be happy with not only how well they’ve played throughout the season, but they have to be happy with how consistent they’ve played as well. With their win over Austin on Saturday, they became the first team in the table to reach 50 points. They’ve racked up a league-high 14 bonus points through 12 matches and really haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. After going toe-to-toe with the Seawolves a few weeks ago, they’ll find themselves in another battle for the top of the table again this weekend when the Legion come to town for what will almost certainly be an instant classic and a true measurement of where both of these clubs sit as the regular season begins to enter the home stretch.
Glendale Rolls Utah to Move Back into Playoff Spot
The 2019 season has been a rollercoaster for the Glendale Raptors. That’s not something the folks in Glendale are used to seeing, but the Raptors are winning games when they absolutely have to and that’s moved them back into the fourth and final playoff spot with only three matches remaining. After beating Rugby United New York at the buzzer a week earlier, the Raptors put a beating on the Utah Warriors on Saturday night. They hung nine tries on the Warriors but will need to make sure that they save a few tries for the final three weeks of the season because their playoff hopes likely hang on whether or not they can pick up five points in the rest of the matches that they play. As Dan Power mentioned in our conversation last week, the Raptors having their final bye of the season during the final week of the season leaves them vulnerable to be bumped out of the playoffs. With matches against the Houston SaberCats, Seattle Seawolves and Toronto Arrows to close out the year, they’ll have to claw, scratch and bite to make sure their offseason doesn’t begin a week earlier than everyone else.
Toronto Stuns San Diego to Stay in the Hunt
By handing the Legion a last-minute defeat on Sunday afternoon, the Toronto Arrows have risen to the occasion for the second week in a row. They extended their win streak to three matches and inched closer to the fourth and final playoff spot. I’ll touch a little bit on the Arrows wild season and what they’ve done to move into their current position a little further down, but they could wake up next Monday in a playoff spot if they take care of business this busy week. The loss bumped the Legion down a peg in the table. While San Diego has played like a group of guys on a mission throughout the entire season, their three losses have all come at the hands of both of the expansion teams in 2019. They dropped a 25-23 contest to Rugby United New York to open the season and were swept in the season series by the Arrows. San Diego has shown the ability to bounce back time and time again this season, but their next opportunity will be anything but a walk in the park. Could Sunday’s match against NOLA be a preview of the Final in two weeks?
RUNY Shuts Out Houston
Rugby United New York picked up a shutout victory over the Houston SaberCats on Sunday evening, but one look at the faces on the RUNY players’ faces at the conclusion of the match told the entire story. It’s no doubt that they are one of the better teams in the league this season. Along with first place NOLA and second-place San Diego, RUNY, who currently sits in third place with 42 points, are the only teams with nine wins on the season. The only downside to their situation is that they only have 42 points. For reference, the Legion and the Gold have 47 and 50 points, respectively. RUNY’s inability to pick up the bonus point on Sunday is the perfect way to sum up their season so far. They are taking care of their business and winning the games that they are supposed to, but could very realistically end up missing out on a playoff spot due to their inability to pick up bonus points. RUNY has only picked up six bonus points through 12 matches. The three teams at the bottom of the able – Utah, Houston and Austin – all have six or fewer bonus points on the season. A big final month of the season would be just what the doctor ordered for a RUNY team that has a good of a chance as anyone to win the whole thing. Bonus points won’t matter in the playoffs, but they matter now.
I would be doing the SaberCats a disservice if I didn’t take a second to acknowledge their effort on Sunday. The score didn’t represent the effort that the SaberCats played with on both sides of the ball. Some undisciplined play in the opening 20 minutes and final 10 minutes resulted in three yellow cards and ultimately did them in, but they played some excellent defense throughout the match and strung together quality phases while on the attack. They obviously weren’t able to crack an extremely stout RUNY defense, but they showed that they are putting the pieces in place to be competitive moving forward.
Toronto’s Wild Season
Nobody in Major League Rugby will have a crazier eight days than the Toronto Arrows. Austin Elite Rugby’s travel schedule over the last two and a half weeks gives the Arrows a run for their money, but the stakes the Arrows are playing for at this moment in time ratchets up the intensity and the importance a couple of notches.
After knocking off the first place San Diego Legion and extending their win streak to three matches on Sunday afternoon, the Arrows will have to turn around and play their makeup match, a match that was originally scheduled to be played on April 14 but was postponed due to storm-induced travel complications, against Austin on Thursday, May 9. They will then have to jump back on the horse and play the Utah Warriors on Sunday, May 12.
At least they don’t have to travel.
Andre 3000 of Outkast said it best.
You can plan a pretty picnic
But you can’t predict the weather
Aside from the Texas sides, no team has had worse luck with the weather this season than Toronto. The tail end of winter in Toronto is the reason they had to play the first half of their season on the road. One of those stops included an unusually cold and snowy March night at Infinity Park. March is the month in which Colorado typically receives the most snow, but it is never as cold as it was that night. The temperature read 11 degrees Fahrenheit at kickoff, but it felt like -3. Toronto fell 22-0 as a result.
Combine a tough travel schedule and a blizzard in Glendale with rainstorms in Austin and you get three crucial matches in a week’s time. That’s unfortunately just the way things have gone for the Arrows this season. But through all of that, the Arrows have battled to a 7-5 record and 38 points on the season. They sit just three points behind the fifth-place Seattle Seawolves and just four points behind both Rugby United New York and the Glendale Raptors for a playoff spot.
Toronto could realistically pick up 14 points in eight days and move up to as high as second place if San Diego beats NOLA and the Gold don’t secure any bonus points in the loss.
A large part of professional sports is getting hot at the right time, and that’s what the Arrows have done. They’ve consistently beaten teams below them in the table, and if that trend continues, they could be riding a five-game win streak into their final two matches of the season with two of the top try-scorers in Major League Rugby on both of their wings in captain Dan Moor and Avery Oitomen and a top three kicker in fly-half Sam Malcolm.
The Arrows have already resurrected their season, but if they can sneak into the playoffs there is no reason to believe they can’t win the whole thing in their first season.
What a story that would be.
What did you think about this week’s action? What did I miss? I would love to hear from any and all MLR fans as the season moves along. Feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected] with any MLR related topic that might be on your mind. I’ll address any emails in the next week’s Colton’s Corner.
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