Toronto Arrows Edged by NOLA in MLR Opener
MARRERO, LA - The Toronto Arrows produced a 24-point performance in the second half of their Major League Rugby debut, but their comeback efforts fell just short in a 36-31 loss to the NOLA Gold.
The Arrows endured a tough opening 40 minutes in their season opener, conceding four tries to trail host side New Orleans 24-7 at the halftime whistle. Scott Gale, Tim Maupin, Eric Howard, and Con Foley all crossed the whitewash for the Gold, while veteran flanker John Moonlight muscled over Toronto's lone first-half try, making history for the club as its first MLR try-scorer.
Toronto emerged from the interval as a rejuvenated side, cutting the deficit to 24-19 with a pair of rapid-fire tries from wing Dan Moor.
A wild final 15 minutes provided great theatre for the spectators at Gold Stadium, with mesmerizing back-and-forth play from both clubs leading to four blow-for-blow tries.
NOLA fullback Jean-Pierre Eloff kicked off the scoring frenzy in the 67th minute, absorbing an Arrows tackle while powering over the line. The conversion from fly-half Gale increased the Gold's lead to 31-19.
A 70th-minute penalty try for Toronto reduced NOLA's lead to five points after the match official penalized the Gold for a deliberate knock-on near the goal-line.
Just two minutes later, New Orleans responded with a try when outside centre Tristan Blewett pounced on his own kicked ball inside Toronto's in-goal area.
The Arrows answered right back three minutes later, with teenager Avery Oitemen scoring on his first touch of the match to chop NOLA's lead to 36-31. A last-effort Toronto drive brought the Arrows into Gold territory in the 80th minute, but ended with the ball bouncing out of play to seal the match for the hosts.
"I'm proud of way we responded in the second half," said Arrows Director of Rugby Chris Silverthorn. "Going into this game we knew that NOLA would give us a tough match, and it lived up to expectations. They came out of the gate with great energy, but we responded and adapted as the match went on. It was a good learning experience, and we'll be stronger for it."
Toronto's young matchday squad featured 21 Canadians, 10 of whom are full Canadian internationals with 126 combined caps. The squad's average age was 25.
"We'll leave Louisiana with a couple of bonus points, and a lot of things to work on in our bye week," added Silverthorn. "We're all thrilled to have our first MLR game under our belts, but the hard work doesn't stop here. This is a tough league with no easy games, and we're eager to get back to training to prepare for the next one."
Toronto's season opener - the first-ever professional rugby union match played by a Canadian team - was the first of eight consecutive away matches for the Arrows. Toronto's extended road trip will be followed by eight consecutive home matches between April 7 and June 2 to close out the club's regular season.
The Arrows have a bye week next weekend, but enter round three of the season with an away match at Austin Elite Rugby on Friday, Feb. 8.
Toronto Arrows Score Report
Tries: J. Moonlight (22), Dan Moor 2 (45, 56), Penalty Try (70), A. Oitomen (75)
Conversions: S. Malcolm 2 (23, 46)
NOLA Gold Score Report
Tries: S. Gale (1), T. Maupin (25), E. Howard (32), C. Foley (34), J-P. Eloff (67), T. Blewett (72)
Conversions: J-P. Eloff (2, 33), S. Gale (68)
Toronto Arrows Lineup vs. NOLA Gold
1. Rob Brouwer
2. Andrew Quattrin
3. Cole Keith
4. Mike Sheppard
5. Paul Ciulini
6. Peter Milazzo
7. John Moonlight
8. Lucas Rumball (C)
9. Andrew Ferguson
10. Sam Malcolm
11. Kainoa Lloyd
12. Jamie Leveridge
13. Spencer Jones
14. Dan Moor
15. Jack Evans
16. Steven Ng
17. Tom Dolezel
18. Morgan Mitchell
19. Kolby Francis
20. Marcello Wainwright
21. Riley Di Nardo
22. Avery Oitomen
23. Shawn Windsor
Vice President & General Manager: Mark Winokur
Director of Rugby: Chris Silverthorn
Coaches: Aaron Carpenter, Cory Hector, Peter Smith
Performance Analyst: Rodin Lozada
Images from this story
Toronto Arrows move in for a ball against the NOLA Gold
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Major League Rugby Stories from January 27, 2019
- Toronto Arrows Edged by NOLA in MLR Opener - Toronto Arrows
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