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The Glendale Raptors earned their first Pacific Rugby Premiership title thanks to a well-executed game plan Saturday. They pushed the pace early, played a sound defensive game in key areas and executed in the wide areas to score four tries on the afternoon.
Prior to the match, Glendale coach Andre Snyman changed up his starting 15, in particular his back three. For the majority of the season, Dustin Croy slotted in at fullback with Max Statler out on the wing, but in order to slow down the explosive Pila Huihui, Snyman opted to put the sure-tackling Croy out wide and move the speedster Statler to fullback. The changes paid dividends as Statler tallied two scores on the afternoon and Croy made a number of tackles, none bigger than one on Tai Enosa late in the game to force a penalty.
The back three had a tremendous afternoon as Statler and the other wing, Preston Bryant, took home co-man of the match awards. Statler and Bryant each tallied two tries on the afternoon.
“The back three is very well balanced, the only thing they lack at the moment is a kicking game,” Snyman indicated.
Coming into the match with SFGG, Glendale looked to get out of the gate quickly. According to Snyman, part of the game plan was establishing a presence early.
"Leading up to the game we said we can’t give them a chance to get into the game,” he said. “We have to get a really good start, clinical start, getting out of the changing room firing on all cylinders.”
Knowing SFGG would not go away, Glendale focused heavily on defensive structure in the weeks leading up. Particularly, the Raptors focused on individual tackling and defense near their own goal line. In all, Glendale only gave up one try on the afternoon and held SFGG off the score sheet for the last 38 minutes of the match.
Two stanzas late in the second half showed Glendale’s commitment to defense and really were turning points in the game. At 12-11, SFGG probed the Glendale line for a five-minute stint. Without conceding a penalty, the Raptors held the visitors out and finally forced a turnover to clear their line. With less than 10 minutes to play, they kept SFGG out despite several penalties in their own half. A great tackle from Croy earned Glendale a penalty and a ticket to safety.
“Defense wins trophies. Those two examples everybody is talking about,” Snyman added. “We worked really hard on discipline in that area of the field, five meters away from our try line.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Glendale looked to exploit the wide channels. Snyman praised the play of the SFGG forwards and indicated that it was a much better to attack a team like SFGG out wide. The Raptors scored all four of their tries by outflanking the SFGG defense out wide.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome of the game plan,” Snyman concluded. I am so proud of the leadership, Zach Fenoglio, Chad London and Mose Timoteo, they stepped up, making the right decisions, when to kick when to run.”
The stage is set for year three of the PRP. Will SFGG turn the tables on Glendale or will a team like Belmont Shore or OMBAC make its way into the spotlight? Next year should be quite the interesting season out west.