Rugby ATL start strong but can’t hold off Eastern Conference leading Toronto Arrows

#13 Jeremy Misailegalu on another break. (Photo by: @ayalasphotography)

Atlanta, Ga (March 1st, 2020) – 
Rugby ATL fell to the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Arrows, 18 – 28 at  Rugby ATL Stadium, Life University on Sunday afternoon. Rugby ATL held the lead 11 – 7 at halftime but the Canadian side pulled away in the final quarter of a highly physical encounter.

Much of the early territory and possession favored the Arrows. The pressure turned into points as left-wing Leandro Leivas popped up on the right side of the pitch to create an imbalance, taking an inside pass from Ben LeSage in for the opening try. Sam Malcolm’s pinpoint accuracy continued from the tee to make it a full seven points.

Rugby ATL nearly responded in kind moments later as #15 Zander van Schalkwyk flew down the sideline on a counter-attack. He connected with support but the ball was knocked on and Toronto were able to temporarily clear their lines. A penalty gave #10 Kurt Coleman his first shot at the uprights from 30 meters out and he made no mistake to get the home side on the board just ahead of the hydration break.

The next 20 minutes would belong to Rugby ATL. Toronto’s defense was stingy, bending but refusing to break as wave after wave of attacks crashed into the line. Eventually, Coleman would slot a second penalty, and then at last Rugby ATL got what they were looking for.

#13 Jeremy Misailegalu found a hole and put the Arrows on the back foot. An offside penalty presented another kicking opportunity but this time Coleman opted for the corner. The lineout drive worked to plan and #2 Alex Maughan grounded the ball for the try. Coleman’s conversion was off target but Rugby ATL would take the 11-7 lead into halftime.

Both sides reached for fresh legs to combat the intensity. The Arrows brought on regular starters Andrew Quattrin and Lucas Rumball to start the second half. Just a few minutes later Rugby ATL summoned #17 Chance Wenglewski and #19 Conor Keys from the bench.

Toronto were keen to make it a battle of attrition and their scrum began to turn the screw. The pressure was relentless and Rugby ATL could only hold out for so long before Tomás de la Vega burrowed over from short range as the visitors re-took the lead.

Another score would come to the Arrows soon after. From a midfield scrum, Manuel Diana broke right, but Andrew Ferguson switched the play back to the left with Tayler Adams sending Leivas into the corner for his second. With Malcolm now off Adams took the kicking duties and Toronto had a 10 point lead.

There was life yet in Rugby ATL and Coleman broke free on a storming run before sending #20 Vili Helu down the left sideline. Helu was stopped short but Ferguson’s tackle was deemed illegal and the scrumhalf was sent to the @ReadyRefresh sin bin for his troubles.

At the ensuing throw-in the drive came on and just as before it ended over the line, with #16 Neethling Gericke the man in possession for a try on debut. Coleman’s conversion would close the gap to three but that was as close as his men would get.

Riley DiNardo came on to shore up the scrumhalf spot in Ferguson’s absence. A long-range penalty attempt from Adams went wide but Rugby ATL couldn’t escape their end. Gericke went from hero to villain, earning a yellow card for slowing the ball down.

With a minute to play Toronto made full use of an attacking scrum, splitting the backline against the now-shorthanded Rugby ATL defense. Gastón Mieres became the extra attacker, slicing through on the left side and curling in under the posts for the bonus point try. The conversion from Adams was academic as Rugby ATL were in turn left without a losing bonus point.

“Congratulations to Toronto on a hard-fought victory.  They showed why they are one of the top teams in the league today.  Our men put in an improved performance from last week and we created enough opportunities.   With a tough test this coming week we’ll get in and get back to work,” said Head Coach and General Manager, Scott Lawrence, soon after the match.

Rugby ATL will head north to play expansion rivals Old Glory DC at 6 pm on Sunday, March 8th. Old Glory DC are sitting 3rd in the Eastern Conference Major League Standing while Rugby ATL has slipped down to 5th.

Rugby ATL 18
Tries – A. Maughan (39’), N. Gericke (70’)
Cons – K. Coleman 1/2 (71’)
Pens – K. Coleman 2/2 (19’, 32’)
Yellow cards – N. Gericke (76’)

Tries – L. Leivas 2 (14’, 62’), T. de la Vega (56’), G. Mieres (80’)
Cons – S. Malcolm 2/2 (15’, 57’), T. Adams 2/2 (63’, 80’)
Pens – T. Adams 0/1
Yellow cards – A. Ferguson (69’)

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