Glendale Raptors Advance to Championship After Beating Utah Warriors

Major League Rugby Semi-Final

The Glendale Raptors defeated the Utah Warriors 34-21in the Major League Rugby Semi-Finals at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado on June 30. Glendale Raptors will meet the Seattle Seawolves, who beat the San Diego Legion 38-24 in the first semi-final in the Championship on July 7 at Torero Stadium in San Diego. CBS Sports Network will broadcast the match.

Match Recap

The match between the Glendale Raptors and the Utah Warriors features the two highest scoring teams in the League. Both teams are averaging over 30 points per match.

Glendale drew first blood as the team attacked blind. Mika Kruse offloaded to Sam Figg for a try in the left corner and  Will Magie slotted the conversion for a 7-0 lead. The Raptors appeared to increase their lead as 14-0 with Sam Figg gathering a loose ball after a Warriors lineout and going in for his second try. The try was nullified however as a Raptors knock on was ruled during the lineout.

The Warriors then attacked with Fets Vainikolo going into contact and losing the ball inside the Raptors 22-meters. After some back and forth, the Raptors increased their lead to 10-0 after a penalty kick by Magie in front of the posts.

The Warriors then had another scoring opportunity after a lineout. Lance Williams was held up 8 meters from the line resulting in a Raptors scrum. Magie was able to execute a clearance kick under pressure. The Warriors attacked with Maka Tameilau held up over the line. Lasike then could not handle the offload in close and the Raptors dodged a bullet and cleared.

The Raptors attacked blind from a lineout with Kruse breaking and chipping ahead. Don Pati counterattacked with the Warriors advancing to the Raptors 22-meters before losing the ball with a handling error. Even though the Raptors lead, the Warriors have had their scoring opportunities, but have not been able to capitalize.

The match has been a high paced one with exciting attacks and some excellent defense. I always like to see quick lineouts where a player throws the ball to himself and that happened with Will Magie, who then executed a high ball.

The Raptors increased their lead with a team try after a break by Chad London. Harley Davidson finished the effort with the try and Magie converted pushing the lead to 17-0. The Raptors then stole a lineout and Shaun Davies ran in a long distance try increasing the lead to 22-0.

The Raptors have the lead, but the Warriors have the edge in possession. Missed opportunities due to handling errors and the opportunistic play by the Raptors have been the difference so far.

Don Pati started a Warriors attack. Fets Vainikolo had a long break and Tonata Lauti finished with the try. Morath slotted the conversion to cut the lead to 22-7.

The Warriors had a sustained attack but then lost the ball. The Raptors cleared and Kruse chased kicking the ball ahead, but not being able to control the bounce prior to the line. The Warriors then held and went into the break down 22-7.

Comments

The first half was placed at a fast pace with Sam Figg and Mika Kruse leading the way for the Raptors. Maximo De Achaval and Will Magie used the kicking game to the team’s advantage and Shaun Davies used quick ball to begin attacks and added a try. Harley Davidson finished a team effort with a try. He has been one of the leading try scorers in the League. The Raptors played well during the half and capitalized on opportunities to take a 22-7 lead into the break.

Also, credit the Raptors defense and in disrupting several lineouts.

The Warriors had several scoring opportunities, but handling errors thwarted several attacks. Paul Lasike and Fets Vainikolo powered their way in the attack, while Don Pati and Tonata Lauti were elusive runners. The Warriors will need to minimize errors during the second half, continue their physical play, and their expansive attack. The match could have been much closer and the Warriors will have an uphill battle during the second half if they want to advance to the Championship.

Second Half

After a low pass by Nicholls giving the Raptors a scrum, the Warriors won the tighthead and had an early attack. Slow ball has been a concern in the Warriors attack, but a penalty advantage allowed the team to clear for territory and keep possession. The ball was lost on the ensuing lineout inside the Raptors 22-meters and again from a lineout when they got the ball back.

The Raptors then advanced the ball deep inside the Warriors territory before a scrum to the Warriors allowed the team to clear. The Raptors attacked again with Harley Davidson driven into touch by Vainikolo. Instead of clearing, Vainikolo broke downfield. Then it was the Raptors turn with Magie bouncing a kick into touch deep in Warriors territory.

The Warriors were then penalized and the Raptors mauled their way in from a lineout with Zach Fenoglio adding a try. Magie added the conversion to push the lead to 29-7.

Lance Williams saved a potential try by the Raptors and the Warriors had a scrum about 12 meters in defense. This allowed them to clear to midfield. The Raptors attacked from a lineout and Chad London neared the line, but Don Pati caused a turnover on contact. After a short clearance kick, the Raptors again lost the ball inside the Warriors 22-meters.

The Warriors have decided to maintain possession and run it deep from their territory. A penalty allowed the team to gain territory and to continue their attack. The team, however, lost possession on the tackle of Morath.

A penalty by the Warriors allowed the Raptors to attack from a lineout 8-meters out. Fenoglio advanced the ball short of the lien and Luke White finished with a try to likely seal the match. Magie then converted for a 34-7 lead.

The Warriors answered back with a quick tap with Tevita Tameilau scoring a try under the posts. Ben Nicholls slotted the kick cutting the lead to 34-14 with 11 minutes remaining.

Glendale appeared to be on target to score again, but Lauti intercepted the ball and broke downfield. Alex Tucci had a strong effort with Davies’ ankle tackle the difference. Matt Jensen advanced the ball to within 5-meters of the line. Shortly later, Fets Vainikolo broke, Lasike recovered the offload and Don Pati finished with the try. Ben Nicholls conversion narrowed the lead to 34-21 with 7 minutes left.

Utah went through multiple phases with a penalty advantage being played. The ensuing lineout was not smooth but was taken and after multiple phases, Lasike lost the ball forward.

It was a fast-paced match for the entire match. The Raptors earned the 34-21 win, but the Warriors were a threat until the end.

With the win, the Glendale Raptors advance to the Major League Rugby Championship next Saturday in San Diego against the Seattle Seawolves who beat the San Diego Legion 38-24 in the first semi-final.

Glendale Raptors Sam Figg was named Man of the Match.

Comments

The Raptors had perhaps their strongest squad of the season. Glendale was able to capitalize on early Warriors errors and their defense was strong. The match may have been different had the Warriors add two tries when they were within 5-meters of the line.

During the second half, the Warriors needed to take chances in the attack and after the White try, the match appeared to be in hand. That is when the Warriors showed their heart and added a couple of tries and played hard until the end

Glendale Raptors & Utah Warriors Squads

Glendale Raptors: 1 Blake Rogers 2 Zach Fenoglio (C) 3 Kelepi Fifita 4 Dakota O’Neil 5 Ben Landry 6 Dylan Fawsitt 7 John Quill 8 Sam Figg 9 Shaun Davies 10 Will Magie 11 Mika Kruse 12 Bryce Campbell 13 Chad London 14 Harley Davidson 15 Maximo de Achaval 16 Luke White 17 Nick Kwasniewski 18 Peter Dahl 19 Connor Cook 20 Brian Wanless 21 Mickey Bateman 22 Ata Malifa 23 Seth Halliman + Head Coach David Williams

Utah Warriors: 17 Maka Tameilau 2 Lote Tu’ipulotu 3 Angus MacLellan 4 John Cullen 5 Saia Uhila (VC) 6 Lance Williams 7 Ara Elkington 8 Tevita ‘David’ Tameilau 9 Joseph Nicholls, 10 Kurt Morath 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo 12 Paul Lasike (C) 13 AJ Tu’ineau 14 Tonata Lauti, 15 Don Pati 16 Ray Forrester, 1 Alex Tucci, 18 Kenny Scott 19 Matt Jensen 20 Win Elkington 21 Josh Anderson 22 Iniki Fa’amausili  23 Ben Nicholls + Head Coach Alf Daniels

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