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The Glendale Raptors continued their preseason slog with a 59-31 loss to the team assembled from the weeklong Rugby Americas combine Saturday at Infinity Park. The combine featuring capped players from three South American countries and youngsters from Canada and America.
The game was chopped into four quarters, with the first two being very competitive. Glendale’s depth proved an issue late, as the international side ran away with the result after both teams emptied their benches. For Glendale, it was an untidy performance, but one that showed improvement from earlier exhibition losses to the College All-Americans and Ontario Arrows, and it was against their toughest competition of the preseason.
Former Utah All-American Chad Gough played well at hooker for Glendale, scoring the rare intercept try off an out pass. Wing Nick Johnson, the brother of 7s Eagle Kathryn Johnson who's risen through Glendale’s amateur side, scored a brace on the night. His first try came on a cutout pass from Ata Malifa after a penetrating carry from Mika Kruse. The second came late in the fourth quarter, as he spun inside his opposite to dot down from short distance.
The Americans on the international side didn’t see any time until the second 40 minutes. Lindenwood’s JP Aguirre, a former Argentine U20 whose family emigrated to New Jersey, scored the most minutes. He was three-of-four on conversions and assisted a try with chip kick that was tipped by Glendale before being caught by a teammate and carried in for the score.
Life’s Ryan Rees played a significant spell at scrumhalf late, too, scoring the last try of the game. He caught an offload a phase after a carry from BYU All-American Calvin Whiting. Iona’s Mike Scarcella assisted Chile’s Ignacio Silva for a try late, too. Life’s Brian Muntanga, who participated in the combine, did not see action.
The point for the camp was largely for players from minnow rugby nations to get an opportunity for high-level coaching and exposure in the hopes of netting professional contracts, most pointedly with Major League Rugby. None of the American players were contract-eligible, as all intend to finish their collegiate careers.
A number of the rest of the World Rugby combine participants are expected to sign MLR contracts in the coming weeks.