Seawolves Defeat Arrows for Opportunity to Defend Championship Shield
The Seattle Seawolves used a red-hot start on Sunday evening to defeat the Toronto Arrows 30-17 and punch their ticket back to the Major League Rugby Championship.
Despite running into an Arrows side that was riding a seven-match win streak into the second match of the MLR Championship Series, it was the Seawolves who came out of the gate swinging for the fences.
“We didn’t have 13 turnovers, probably the last six, seven weeks and we had 13 in the first half,” Arrows’ director of rugby Chris Silverthorn said after the match. “We just dropped the ball and then some calls didn’t go our way which hurts more. We just weren’t good enough on the day.”
Seattle wasted no time putting points on the board when wing Brock Staller punched a penalty goal through the pipes in the fifth minute of the match to give the Seawolves an early 3-0 lead. That momentum fed the crowd at Starfire Stadium and was only beginning of the storm that Seattle would create in the first 34 minutes of the match.
“The physicality was increased another step up,” Silverthorn said. “Our guys took some time to adjust to that. We haven’t been on the road in a long time. We have been on a roll and we’ve been playing well. It was hard to take that step back.”
The Seawolves kept their foot on the gas early in the match. They followed up their penalty goal with a try just three minutes later when fly-half Ben Cima chipped a ball over the top of the Arrows defense that landed right in the hands of a streaking Mat Turner. Turner passed the ball to Shalom Suniula who offloaded it to scrum-half J.P. Smith for the try. Staller nailed the conversion and then added another penalty goal just a few moments later to give the Seawolves a 13-0 lead heading into the 20-minute hydration break.
The other side of the hydration break was much of the same for the Seawolves. After a few minutes of back-and-forth rugby, they struck again with a try from wing Jeff Hassler, who took an inside pass from Cima through a big hole in the Arrows defense. Staller added the conversion and a penalty goal in the 34th minute to put the Arrows in a 23-0 hole with only six minutes remaining in the first half.
It wasn’t until the 40th minute that the Arrows warmed up when fly-half Sam Malcolm took a pass and skipped over two attackers to find fullback Gaston Mieres out wide. He stepped back inside and squirted through a hole in the Seawolves defense to get the Arrows on the board. Malcolm kicked the conversion to give the Arrows some life heading into the half.
“All credit to Seattle,” Silverthorn said of Seattle’s first half. “They were a physical team in the first half, but in the second half, our guys really responded well and came out strong. We had them on their back foot and some certain things didn’t go our way. That’s hard.”
Tonto built on that momentum early in the second half. They struck first when lock Mike Sheppard stepped in front of a Seawolves pass and motored in for the try. Malcolm nailed the conversion to bring the score to 23-14 in the 50th minute.
After some battle for territory, the Arrows took advantage of a Seattle penalty with a Malcolm penalty goal that shrunk the Seawolves lead to just six points heading into the 60-minute hydration break.
Despite a rare Brock Staller missed penalty goal that kept the door open for the Arrows to complete the comeback, the Seawolves benefited from a penalty try in the 68th after Toronto flanker Peter Milazzo was whistled for collapsing a maul.
Facing a 30-17 deficit with 14 players on the pitch, the Arrows didn’t quit and were almost rewarded with another try when Sheppard took a short lineout into the in-goal. After TMO revealed that the lineout didn’t travel five meters, the Arrows weren’t able to muster up another serious attacking chance and the Seawolves earned their opportunity to complete their title defense.
The Seawolves will travel to San Diego to take on the top-seeded Legion in the MLR Championship. The match is scheduled to kick off at 4 PM ET on Sunday, June 16 and will be broadcast on CBS.
Tries: J.P. Smith, Jeff Hassler, Penalty Try
Conversions: Brock Staller (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Brock Staller (3/5)
Tries: Gaston Mieres, Mike Sheppard
Conversions: Sam Malcolm (2/2)
Penalty Goals: Sam Malcolm (1/1)
Colton can be reached at [email protected]
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