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The much-anticipated rematch between the Glendale Raptors and the Austin Huns was on Saturday with the Colorado club repeating history to win 45-15. After a tight first half where the Raptors only led by two points, Glendale got its set piece straight resulting in five consecutive tries before Austin could register a point. With multiple Eagles on both sides of the ball, the action was hotly contested and made for a great 80 minutes of rugby.
“It was a very scrappy first half,” Glendale head coach David Williams said. “We gave away far too many penalties which gave them territory and possession. They scored a try at the end of the first half and as soon as we sorted out our set piece, we increased our tempo and accuracy and we were far better... It was hot and humid down there, but our conditioning at the end told through because we had a lot more run in our legs than they did and we could take more advantage of the opportunities we created.”
In Austin, Texas, the teams battled back and forth for the first 20 minutes before a point was put on the board. The Huns got the first crack with a Aaron Boan penalty in 20th minute for the early 3-0 lead. Glendale’s Will Magie answered with a penalty of his own to tie the score in the 27th minute.
With timing winding down in the first half, Glendale found the try zone first after a great line break by Chad London to the 22. The ball was passed through hands until Ata Malifa offloaded to Peter Dahl for the score. Magie made the conversion to lead 10-3.
Following the restart, the Huns were awarded a penalty with less than five minutes remaining. A kick to touch set Austin up in scoring position where broken play turned into a spectacular individual effort by Martin Knoetze. The outside center kicked a grubber through the defense and chased it down in the endzone beating two defenders in hot pursuit. The conversion was wide, but Austin only trailed by two, 10-8.
With the set piece sorted, the Raptors exploded in the second half. Starting in the 47th minute, Glendale scored off an exciting counterattack that featured great offloading by almost the entire team ending with a Magie try.
From there, Zach Fenoglio scored off a rolling maul in 60’, Shaun Davies was the benefactor of a London pop pass at 67’, Ata Malifa dummied the defense at 72’, and Ben Landry powered through two defenders at 75’. Not going down, the Huns had the final try after Lomani Tongotongo broke the line setting up Guillimin for the score. As the final whistle blew, Glendale gave Austin its first home loss, 45-15.
Offering his thoughts after the match, Huns head coach Eugene Eloff said, “In the first half, we were phenomenal, but we had to tackle too much. Tackling takes a lot of energy out of you. In the second half, they put some of their USA players on and I knew one of two things needed to happen. We needed a lucky try early in the second half or if we are not going to get more possession, we were in trouble because we cannot defense so much. We made like 180 tackles.”
“Glendale, to me, is the benchmark and fortunately, it’s a friendly match and we gained a lot from it,” Eloff added. “We were out of our rhythm, especially in the backline with Michael Reid not playing and having to move Timothee Guillimin to #9. Early in the second half, I moved him back and brought Aaron Boan on to get momentum again.”
Having played Austin for a second time, Williams said of the Huns, “They’ve got better because they’ve played consistently in the Red River Conference. We were a bit rusty because we haven’t played in three weeks. They have a really good set piece, a couple of good centers... They are definitely a club on the rise and good for them for stepping up and making the move to the MRC and then the MRL for next year as well. They are only going to get better as a club through better competition, same as us.”
Willaims gave his Man of the Match to Ata Malifa. “He got better and better as the game went on. As the game got more open, he could take advantage of the opportunities our big boys created. Ben Landry was great in the lineout, Logan Collins did a huge amount of the unseen work, and Casey Rock and Brian Wanless did a great job coming off the bench.”
Next up for Glendale is Rugby Utah on April 29th and Austin is back to its DI Red River Schedule with the Austin Blacks on the road this Saturday.