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For the first Major League Rugby preseason game at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., the Raptors showed their rugby prowess and professionalism handing NOLA Gold a 38-14 defeat. Behind a two-try performance from Harley Davidson, Glendale leaped out to a 19-0 lead and never looked back.
“We were able to play through the phases, create some pressure, and make some good line breaks,” Glendale head coach David Williams said. “[NOLA] played with width and challenged us... It was a good first preseason game and generally happy with how we played on both sides of the ball.”
Fresh off winning the ARC Championship for the Eagles, Bryce Campbell scored first for the Raptors after NOLA failed to convert on two penalties kicks on goal. Zach Fenoglio and Davidson joined the try parade to increase the lead to 19-0. After Glendale was carded for repeated infringements, NOLA jumped on the opportunity with Matt Hughston breaking the shutout. The half ended with Glendale up 19-7.
It didn’t take long for the Raptors to regain the momentum as Davidson scored his second two minutes into the second half. Glendale kept pouring on the pressure and turned it into points as Ata Malifa crossed the whitewash to increase the lead to 31-7 with half the period over. NOLA’s Michael Baska added to his team’s total soon after but a final try by Mika Kruse drove the last nail in the coffin for a 38-14 Raptor ripping.
“Glendale played very well,” NOLA head coach Nathan Osborne said. “They punished us for our mistakes as great teams do. I think they just capitalized on our mistakes and build pressure better than us. It was a fast, physical and entertaining match.”
“We had a much-improved performance compared to our game in Houston,” Osborne added. “Still things we can and need to do better, but overall a step in the right direction. We just need to keep getting better each time we step on the field. We need to cut down on the errors and execute on the looks we are getting in games.”
Davidson earned the Man of the Match for his inspired play and two-try effort, but it was a team effort. “Zach Fenoglio did well all game, in the tight and loose play,” Williams stated. “Maximo [de Achaval] controlled the game from #15 and then #10 in the second half. Chad London put in a good performance especially defensively.”
Williams indicated that continuity and their accuracy is Glendale’s biggest strength and only improved competition and the challenges each and every week will make the team better. The next step is at the Utah Warriors at the end of the month and Williams is expecting a fast physical match.
NOLA’s next test is on March 24th with a rematch against the Sabercats at home. “I feel we have a great squad of guys that are close on and off the field. We are getting more and more confident in our patterns and how we want to play the game. Once we are firing we will be very hard to stop.”