Major League Rugby saw its first draw on Saturday evening as the Glendale Raptors came from behind to leave Zions Bank Stadium with a 26-all draw against the Utah Warriors. With the score 26-5 in favor of the home side at the hour mark such a result looked unlikely and in the bitter cold of Salt Lake City it took a remarkable effort from Glendale to come away with points.
The first half was all Utah. Tim O’Malley knocked over two penalty goals before the first try. Josh Whippy started the move with a counter-attack, fending and stepping to nearly halfway. After a couple phases down the left side it came back infield where Gannon Moore was waiting. The Eagles flyer took out two defenders and offloaded to Whippy, who in turn passed to Tonata Lauti and though he was tripped up just short, the winger managed to flick a back-hander to Ara Elkington for a superb team try.
Utah’s backline was putting immense pressure on Glendale and while the were able to recover from line breaks by Fetu’u Vainikolo and Sione Ika, the Warriors eventually won a penalty which O’Malley duly sent through the uprights. The teams would head into the changerooms with the score 16-0 and Glendale might have considered themselves lucky.
There was no such luck to start the second half. Vainikolo ripped through again on a counter-attack and Moore was there to take the short pass, sprinting 40 meters untouched for the try. The flags would stay down this time but the Raptors were now in desperation mode.
The Raptors at last put together a sustained attack and Dylan Taikato-Simpson produced a bit of brilliance to put Harley Davidson into the corner. Just as he had against Austin, Taikato-Simpson sucked in the defense and popped out a no-look pass to his winger to do the rest.
It looked as though Glendale would strike again as Taikato-Simpson nearly repeated the act moments later. This time Whippy got in the way and earned a 10-minute breather for the international knock-on.
Despite the man advantage it was Utah who struck next. Running from the shadow of his own posts, Vainikolo stepped and put a left-footed grubber up the pitch. He hacked it on again and regathered, throwing a speculative behind-the-back pass before going into touch that somehow found it’s target in O’Malley. One quick recycle later and Lauti was putting Moore over for a double.
Whatever was said at the hydration break worked as the Raptors were suddenly invigorated. Multiple phases put the Warriors defense on the back foot. Robbie Petzer took on the line, popping back inside for John Ryberg to slice through and swerve past the cover to score a seven-pointer.
The Warriors came back from the restart, with Franco van den Berg breaking free and getting hauled down just a meter short. Utah couldn’t get the finish, however, and a remarkable scene followed. Glendale’s replacement hooker Chad Gough picked up the ball as it came loose and proceeded to run 100 meters untouched under the posts for a logic-defying individual effort.
Another score followed just a couple minutes later, and this one had a dash of déjà vu. Ata Malifa went straight ahead and it was none other than Ryberg on his inside. The big man powered past one and sped past two more to score his second and claim an important bonus point. Max de Achaval took over the kicking from a shaken up Petzer and rang the conversion off the inside of the post to tie the match.
The Raptors would nearly get through for another before the end and the game would end on a strange note. With Utah throwing in to the lineout on the halfway line, the referee judged the throw not straight but then instead of awarding the scrum to Glendale blew for full-time. A few bemused looks were exchanged as the players shook hands.
Utah’s fans will hope for warmer temperatures next week when the Warriors host the NOLA Gold on Saturday. Glendale will also be at home for the first time this season as they renew their rivalry with the Toronto Arrows at Infinity Park.
Tries – A. Elkington (20’), G. Moore 2 (42’, 58’)
Cons – T. O’Malley 1/3 (21’)
Pens – T. O’Malley 3/3 (12’, 16’, 35’)
Yellow cards – J. Whippy (52’)
Tries – H. Davidson (47’), J. Ryberg 2 (61’, 71’), C. Gough (67’)
Cons – R. Petzer 2/3 (62’, 68’), M. de Achaval 1/1 (72’)
1 Franco van den Berg (17 Huluholo Mo’ungaloa 68’), 2 Logan Daniels (16 Blake Burdette 73’), 3 Angus MacLellan (20 Alex Tucci 68’), 4 Saia Uhila (18 Jackson Kaka 49’), 5 Matt Jensen, 6 Lance Williams (19 Maikelu Mudu 76’), 7 Ara Elkington, 8 John Cullen, 9 Sione Ika (23 Ian Luciano 70’), 10 Tim O’Malley (capt.), 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo (22 Josh Anderson 70’), 12 Gannon Moore, 13 Jeremy Misailegalu, 14 Tonata Lauti, 15 Josh Whippy
Not used: 21 Nolan Tuamoheloa
1 Blake Rogers (17 Max Lum 60’), 2 Zach Fenoglio (16 Chad Gough 49’), 3 Kelepi Fifita (18 Marco Fepulea’i 49’), 4 Kody O’Neil (20 Jason Damm 68’), 5 Luke White (capt.), 6 Brendan Daly, 7 Peter Dahl, 8 Will Munro (19 Connor Cook 60’), 9 Carlo de Nysschen (21 Mickey Bateman 77’), 10 Ata Malifa, 11 Harley Davidson, 12 Robbie Petzer, 13 Mika Kruse (22 Chad London 16’-22’, 60’), 14 John Ryberg, 15 Dylan Taikato-Simpson (23 Maximo de Achaval 68’)
Referee: Ben Crouse (SARU)
Assistants: Luke Rogan (USAR) & Kahlil Harrison (USAR)