Seawolves Hand Raptors First-Ever Home Loss
The Glendale Raptors’ playoff chances took a big hit on Saturday night when they fell 53-36 to the Seattle Seawolves.
While they are still mathematically alive, Saturday night’s loss to Seattle (10-4), which also served as Glendale’s (7-5-2) first loss at home since joining Major League Rugby, leaves the Raptors’ fate in the hands of the teams above them with only two matches to play.
“The boys started well but then we let in those three quick tries,” fly-half Will Magie said of the loss. “Defensively we were poor. We have to have a long, hard look at ourselves. Defensively, all season, we have been poor. One through 30 of us on the squad have to take it one the chin, come back and be better.”
The 53 points the Raptors conceded to the Seawolves on Saturday marks the most points that they have given up in a match since joining MLR.
The Raptors’ started exactly the way they needed to on Saturday afternoon. Wing John Ryberg got the ball out wide from Ata Malifa and rumbled in for a try in the first minute of the match. Outside center Robbie Petzer nailed the conversion to give the Raptors an early 7-0 lead.
Their quick start was undone a few minutes later when the Seawolves responded with a trio of tries from Tim Metcher, Brock Staller, and George Barton over a span of 13 minutes.
“The first 10-15 minutes, we put it into the next gear and it really showed,” Seattle wing Brock Staller said after the match. “We scored a bunch of tries and played to our potential.”
Staller, the leading try scorer in the MLR, scored a try, hit five of his eight conversion attempts and nailed his one penalty goal attempt to lead all scorers in the match with 18 points.
“We just let ourselves down on defense I think,” Glendale prop Luke White said after the match. “On attack, we were brilliant in parts. It’s just the defensive work that let us down throughout the whole game. We’ve got to work on that over the next 10 days for the rest of the season.”
The Raptors responded with tries from Brendan Daly and Luke White to tie the match at 24 points apiece in the 36th minute, but Staller converted a penalty goal just before the half to give the Seawolves a 27-24 lead heading into the break.
The Seawolves blew the match wide open in the second half. Every time the Raptors gained a little momentum, Seattle slammed the door on a comeback. According to Seattle forward Eric Duechle, that the ability to sway the momentum was born during a week the Seawolves spent together in Pennsylvania ahead of their match against Rugby United New York.
“We spent that week in Pennsylvania together and I could really tell that we just gel much better now,” Seattle’s Eric Duechle said of his team’s ability to steal the momentum on Saturday. “We’re really gelling as a team. I think we could’ve done this earlier in the season, we just didn’t have that bond. We’ve developed that.”
“I thought we started really strong and that could’ve killed us,” Glendale scrum-half Shaun Davies said. “We got a little excited and right after that, they came back with a couple of big scores. We got the momentum back on our side, and I think in the second half they just got gain line a bit too easy. They got over the gain line then just got a few penalties and kicked for the corner. It’s hard to play rugby when you’re on the back foot the whole time.”
Seattle did all that they could to keep Glendale on their back foot in the second half. They wasted little time putting seven more points on the board when Stephan Coetzee punched the ball into the in-goal a minute into the second half.
The Raptors responded with a try of their own when Dylan Taikato-Simpson took an offload from Ryberg into the in-goal, but Seattle answered back with a try from JP Smith just three minutes later. Both Glendale and Seattle settled in to play solid defense for the next 10 minutes of the match, but it was back to back tries from Smith and Turner in the 61st and 65th minutes – both of which served as their second tries of the match –that blew the match open.
Glendale responded with a try from Kody O’Neil in the 71st minute, but the damage was already done. Seattle left with the victory, pushing the all-time series between these two sides to 3-2 in the Seawolves’ favor, while Glendale left with all of their attention focused on the next opportunity.
The next match is a massive one for the sixth-place Raptors. They’ll travel to take on the Toronto Arrows, winners of five-straight, to do their part to keep their season alive.
“We’ve got about 10 days to go,” White said. “We’ve got a tough weekend against Toronto next week and then we are, three days later, straight into Houston who beat New Orleans today so they are going to be tough.”
“I think Toronto is a very similar team to Seattle in what they bring,” Davies said of the Arrows. “They are super physical. They pride themselves on gain line, on scrums and set pieces. If we can bring up the physicality, get gain line, stop them from getting gain line, I think we will be golden. Toronto is on a great run at the moment. They are doing bloody well over there. If we can get excited for that, it’ll hopefully turn things around a little bit.”
A bonus-point victory over Toronto would keep the Raptors in the thick of things, but they’ll need some help from the NOLA Gold and the Utah Warriors, who will take on RUNY and the Seawolves in Week 18.
“We’re not out of it mathematically yet,” Magie said. “Obviously, that Houston-NOLA result keeps things interesting. We play next Sunday so we will get back in Tuesday with the same attitude. That’s what the boys are all about. We are a strong group. We will get back to work on Tuesday and go up to Toronto and put in a performance that a lot of teams haven’t been able to.”
“We just have to show our character and show how much we have left in the tank,” White said of his team’s mentality heading into their match against Toronto. “I know we’ve got it left in the tank. Seattle is a great team and they just got the better of us today.”
As for the Seawolves, they’ll turn their attention towards their May 26 home game against the Warriors with their sites ultimately set on the playoffs. With no team locked into a playoff spot yet, there is no time to let their foot off the gas.
“We’ve got a couple of games at home,” Duechle said. “I think we are all excited to get back home. We don’t want to look past those guys, but it’s also an opportunity to polish for the playoffs.”
“A couple of good training sessions, get our systems right,” Staller said on his team’s focus going into the last two matches of the regular season. “The bottom line is, at this part of the year, you’ve got to start having fun because it’s getting pretty monotonous training and training right at the end of the year. If we just keep doing our stuff, we will be okay.”
Tries: John Ryberg, Brendan Daly, Luke White, Dylan Taikato-Simpson, Kody O’Neil
Conversions: Robbie Petzer (4/4), Will Magie (0/1)
Penalty Goals: Robbie Petzer (1/1)
Tries: Tim Metcher, Brock Staller, George Barton, Mat Turner (2), Stephan Coetzee, JP Smith
Conversions: Brock Staller (5/8)
Penalty Goals: Brock Staller (1/1)
Colton can be reached at [email protected]
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