The Glendale Raptors recorded their first win of the 2019 Major League Rugby season as they powered their way to a 24-13 win over Austin Elite at Dell Diamond on Sunday. It wasn’t all smooth sailing but the four-try victory gives the 2018 finalists a significant boost of morale after their sluggish start.
Absent outstanding Eagles trio Hanco Germishuys, Shaun Davies, and Will Magie, the Raptors struggled to find their rhythm for more than a few phases at a time but got big plays when they needed them with veteran Ata Malifa providing inspiration as a stand-in flyhalf. Meanwhile it was more frustration for Austin, who had hoped to counter with the creative Rodrigo Silva but the Uruguayan was forced off mid-way through the first half.
With Tim Guillimin starting on the bench it was Andrés Vilaseca who knocked over the first points of the game as Austin won a penalty just inside the Glendale 10 meter line. It would be some time before the home side would reach the scoreboard again.
The Raptors had the advantage in possession and territory and Malifa soon found a gap, stepping between two forwards to bust clean through for a seven pointer. A second try came 10 minutes later, directly from a 5-meter scrum. Dylan Taikato-Simpson took the ball as first receiver on the blindside and sucked in both defenders, his back-handed offload finding Harley Davidson’s hands for the walk-in finish.
Austin needed something before the break and they were thrown a lifeline by flanker Rikus Zwart. The giant South African looked to be stopped cold 10 meters out but somehow carried three defenders with him as he stretched out to score on a superb individual effort. Vilaseca couldn’t convert but the Elite were back within touching distance.
Malifa was at it again early in the second half. In almost identical fashion the show-and-go fooled the forwards in front of him and Carlo de Nysschen was on hand to finish off the two-on-one. de Nyscchen converted his own to stretch the lead to 19-8.
The Elite nearly got a magical score from Mickael Romera after Soheyl Jaoudat had kicked ahead into space. Romera needed only to regather as it popped up but the ball instead fell from his outstretched hands and the moment was lost.
Instead it was Glendale who wrapped up the bonus point with their fourth try that came on the hour mark. Malifa shifted he ball back across the breakdown and caught Austin shorthanded. Brendan Daly’s hard line took out two defenders and left Peter Dahl unmarked for a run-in to the corner.
Glendale somehow botched three certain tries as the game wound down. Chad London picked up a loose ball and sprinted 59 meters untouched only to be dragged down one short by a miraculous Zinzan Elan-Puttick cover tackle. Chad Gough then took the ball over the line but lost it forward, and then de Nysschen did his best copycat routine as he lost the ball in the act of diving over a ruck.
With no time left for a comeback Austin strangely found another gear. They worked their way the length of the field and after a break down the right side Peni Tagive offloaded to his captain Ben Mitchell for a wonderful team try. As a final attack after the restart fell short the fans in attendance wondered where that energy had been for the previous half hour.
The two teams will face each other again at Infinity Park on March 9 but in the meantime Austin must find a way to rejuvenate themselves for their home game against San Diego on Friday. Glendale will travel to Salt Lake to play the Utah Warriors on Saturday.
Tries – R. Zwart (37’), B. Mitchell (79’)
Cons – A. Vilaseca 0/1, M. Romera 0/1
Pens – A. Vilaseca 1/1 (12’)
Tries – A. Malifa (20’), H. Davidson (30’), C. de Nysschen (46’), P. Dahl (60’)
Cons – C. de Nysschen 2/3 (21’, 47’), R. Petzer 0/1
Pens – C. de Nysschen 0/1
Credit: Americas Rugby News