Raptors Punch Ticket to MLR Championship With Victory Over Warriors
Raptors Punch Ticket to MLR Championship With Victory Over Warriors
By: Colton Strickler
Photo: Justin Purdy
The Glendale Raptors will head to Torero Stadium to take on the Seattle Seawolves in the inaugural MLR Championship.
The final slot in the championship was filled when the first-place Raptors defeated the fourth-place Utah Warriors 34-21 on Saturday evening at Infinity Park.
After suffering their first loss of the inaugural MLR season to the San Diego Legion last week, the Raptors came out with a vengeance. They wasted no time putting points on the board, and they did so with a flurry of early scores.
“We needed a response from last week and got it,” Glendale head coach David Williams said after the match.
The first of the Raptors 22 unanswered points came when eight-man Sam Figg took an offload from wing Mika Kruse in for the first try of the match. Fly-half Will Magie converted the try and followed up an early seven points with a penalty goal in the 12th minute to give the Raptors a 10-0 lead.
Despite playing extremely tough defense and creating scoring opportunities with the ball in their hands, the Warriors couldn’t capitalize on their first-half chances and Glendale made them pay for their mistakes as the match went on. Those mistakes revealed themselves in several areas on the final stat sheet.
Utah lost five of their own lineouts and committed 12 handling errors, grinding the potential scoring chances that they had early in the match to a disappointing halt.
According to Utah head coach Alf Daniels, the mistakes were a combination of self-inflicted mistakes and pressure from the Raptors.
“They are a good team,” Daniels said after the match. “They are a good program. They’ve got a lot of experience together. They obviously knew that if they put pressure on us that it would make things hard. We had a good week and practiced a lot of structure and put things together but we just took too long to put that into play tonight and by the time we did that they were 20 points up.”
The Raptors onslaught of points continued with a try from wing Harley Davidson that went through the hands of five different Raptors on a line break initiated by Chad London. Magie kicked the conversion to extend Glendale’s lead to 17 in the 24th minute.
Glendale didn’t let up. They kept the points coming in the 32nd when scrum-half Shaun Davies stole a Warriors’ lineout and took it the other way for a long try. Magie missed the conversion, but the Raptors had taken a commanding 22-0 lead in the 32nd minute of the match.
After several close calls, the Warriors finally had something to show for their hard work when Tonata Lauti took a flat pass from fullback Don Pati, stepped past two defenders and dotted the ball down between the posts just before halftime. Fly-half Kurt Morath kicked the conversion to cut the Raptors lead down to 15 heading into the half.
After some back-and-forth rugby, the Raptors were the first to score in the second half, and they did so using a hardened forward pack that has delivered all season long. Hooker Zach Fenoglio rode a driving maul into the in-goal for a try in the 53rd minute. Magie’s conversion gave the Raptors a 29-7 lead, and just about closed the door on any shot that Utah had at a comeback.
Glendale tacked on one more try a few minutes later when Luke White rumbled into the in-goal. Magie missed the conversion but left the Warriors with a 27 point hole to dig themselves out of with a little bit of time.
The Warriors didn’t back down, and they began to chip away at Glendale’s lead with a try from eight-man Tevita Tameilau in the 69th minute. Tameilau took a pass from scrum-half Joe Nicholls and rumbled right over Magie to keep Utah alive. Replacement fly-half Ben Nicholls kicked the conversion to cut Glendale’s lead to 20, but the Warriors still had some work to do.
Utah struck again with a try from fullback Don Pati in the 73rd minute after Paul Lasike jumped on an errant pass and distributed the ball to the corner. Nicholls’ conversion made it a 13 point game with seven minutes left, but the Warriors wouldn’t be able to complete the comeback and Glendale escaped with the 34-21 win.
“I think the one that does stand out is that we will play for 80 minutes,” Daniels said. “The boys have got big hearts and they don’t like to lose but they’ll play hard right to the very end. One or two little breaks here or there and it would’ve been quite an interesting finish maybe.”
The Warriors, who finished their season with a 3-6 record, were decimated by injuries to key contributors all season. To make the playoffs and hang around with the Raptors in their first season as a club signifies a bright future according to Daniels.
“I think it’s huge for us,” Daniels said. “I think it shows a little bit of the character and the culture of the club. Making the playoffs in our first year with five months of time together is a lot for us. Going forward, I’ll tell you what if we are able to keep injury free then I think we could be quite an interesting team next season.”
Williams had similar things to say about the Raptors’ first season in the MLR.
“Massive for Glendale to get to the final in the inaugural season and huge credit to the players, staff, all departments,” Williams said of his team’s appearance in next week’s championship. “But nothing is won yet.”
The top-ranked Raptors will head to Torero Stadium in San Diego, California to take on the second-place Seattle Seawolves in the inaugural MLR Championship next Saturday, July 7. The meeting will be the third time the two sides have faced each other this season, with the Raptors winning both of the prior matches.
“Seattle are a quality team and have threats across the board which we will have to honor,” Williams said looking ahead to the Seawolves. “They have a good set piece and strike runners in the midfield.”
Tickets for the inaugural MLR Championship can be purchased here.
Tries: Sam Figg, Harley Davidson, Shaun Davies, Zach Fenoglio, Luke White
Penalties: Will Magie (1/1)
Conversions: Will Magie (3/5)
Tries: Tonata Lauti, Tevita Tameilau, Don Pati
Conversions: Kurt Morath (1/1), Ben Nicholls (2/2)
Colton can be reached at email@example.com.
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