Ontario Arrows suffer disappointing loss at hands of Merlins; Photo credit to Linda Brothers
Written by Dylan Meredith, Rugby Ontario High Performance & Communications Intern
(GLENDALE, CO) - On Saturday September 9, the newly formed Ontario Arrows squad played their first match in team history. This match marked the first time the Canadian high performance team has played under the Ontario Arrows name in competition south of the border. The Arrows traveled to Glendale, Colorado where they were hosted by the Glendale Merlins for an inaugural match of elite level North American rugby. The hosts came out on top by a final score of 41-7.
The Arrows and Merlins are seemingly familiar with each other as the two sides clashed in May under different team names, the Ontario Blues and Glendale Raptors. The first game between Ontario and Glendale was a lot closer than Saturday’s match, as Ontario took game one by a final score of 43-25 (7 tries to 4). Although some minor changes were made to the starting XV Ontario roster that defeated Glendale at Sherwood Forest Park (Burlington) in May, the Arrows roster included a total of 17 returning players.
Notable additions to the Ontario roster included prop Alex Forrest (PEI Mudmen), and mid fielders Pat Parfrey (Swilers NL) and Guiseppe du Toit (University of Victoria). Also added to the Arrows lineup was flanker Pete Milazzo, center Kyle Lagasca and midfielder Mitch Richardson. Among those missing in this contest are prop DJ Sears-Duru (Ealing Trailfinders), and wing Dan Moor (Oxford University).
Ontario came out slow in this contest, taking an early hands in the ruck penalty inside Glendale territory within the opening two minutes. After kicking for touch and gaining significant field position in the Ontario half, the Merlins went off the top of the line out before spinning the ball out wide, creating an overlap and scoring in the corner to put the games first points on the board. The Merlins set the tone of the game early with pace, fluid ball movement and effective spacing.
Trailing 7-0 early, the Arrows came right back with fast, organized and systematic line speed. Ontario’s defensive ability to meet Glendale at the gain line significantly hindered the Merlins offensive ability to gain ground within Arrows territory. A hard-nosed Arrows defense did not let up on the Merlins during phase play and at the break downs – causing Glendale to take several penalties while trying to maintain possession of the ball. After consecutive Glendale penalties (knock ons, not releasing, offsides, hands in the ruck) momentum seemed to be swayed onto the Arrows side.
A pressing Arrows defense forced a desperate Merlins clearance kick from deep inside the Glendale half. After the ball went straight out of bounds, a flat-footed Merlins kick chase led to Arrows winger, Kainoa Lloyd going with a quick line out, connecting with a streaking Andrew Ferguson who took the ball 60 metres down the side line untouched for the score. Lloyd and Ferguson’s extraordinary awareness on this play led to the first try ever recorded in Ontario Arrows team history – a special moment for two elite athletes that have gone through the ranks of Ontario’s high performance rugby system.
Following the try, a determined Arrows offense could not piece together continuous phases of flow rugby to penetrate Glendale’s defense. Unfortunately, the scoring would end here for Ontario as the Arrows were immediately forced back onto the other side of the ball to defend against a hungry Merlins offense. Although the Arrows defense maintained its structure throughout the opening 30 minutes, fatigue began to factor in for Ontario, ultimately opening up time and space for an energized Glendale squad. The Merlins didn’t take kindly to the Arrows tying up the game in front of their home crowd at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado. However, the 7-7 score did not last long as an intensified Glendale squad did not allow Ontario to take control of the contest leading up to half time. The Merlins would tally up three more tries to their scoresheet, taking a 24-7 lead after 40 minutes of play.
The second half was much of the same story for Ontario – as a desperate Arrows offense failed to execute inside Merlin territory. A scrambled Arrows offense was unable to score in the second half as Ontario dealt with several knock ons, penalties and turnovers. The Arrows showed signs of dominance in various set piece situations throughout the game, but ultimately came up short when it came to putting points on the scoreboard. The Merlins didn’t take their foot off the gas, steam rolling over a weathered Arrows defense throughout the second half. A fraught Arrows squad was unable to implement their system offensively and defensively, resulting in five unanswered Glendale tries.
The Glendale Merlins went on to defeat the Ontario Arrows by a final score of 41-7. In two games played against each other, Ontario has a total of 50 points for, while Glendale has a total of 66 points for – both teams sitting even with a 1-1 record.
For more information on the Ontario Arrows, please contact team manager Mark Winokur at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see the full photo album of the match from Broadgauge Sports' Linda Brothers, go to https://broadgauge.pixieset.com/0909-merlins-v-arrows/.
Watch the full game below:
ONTARIO ARROWS STARTING XV vs. GLENDALE MERLINS - September 9, 2017
1 Rob Brouwer (captain)
2 Eric Howard
3 Alex Forrest
4 Mike Sheppard
5 Hank McQueen
6 Pete Milazzo
7 Lucas Rumball
8 Andrew Wilson
9 Andrew Ferguson
10 Pat Parfrey
11 Jon West
12 Guiseppe du Toit
13 Josh Campbell
14 Kainoa Lloyd
15 Johnny Sheridan
16 AJ Quattrin
17 Pat Lynott
18 Ryan Surgenor
19 Paul Ciulini
20 Marcello Wainwright
21 Mario Vanderwesthuizen
22 Mitch Richardson
23 Kyle Lagasca