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Looking to start 2017 off with intense competition, the Glendale Raptors kicked off six months of rust by challenging itself against Cal Cup Finalist Life West in Hayward, Calif. on Saturday. The Raptors were the aggressors on both sides of the ball pressuring the Gladiators at every opportunity and then stretching the field to create mismatches and overloads to score. Led by dominant performances in the backline, Glendale scored eight tries to beat Life West, 50-19.
Despite limited time to ramp up for this game, Glendale head coach David Williams was encouraged by the result. “Our set piece functioned really well, our set piece moves worked pretty well. Our phase play worked great. We lapsed in defense a little bit due to system errors and individual errors. Overall, our guys kept their shape, our width, had good pressures when we had to and we stuck to our gameplan.”
The real key to victory for the Raptors was their physicality at the point of contact. “Like in any game in rugby, if you can win the physicality at the gain line battle then you have a great chance at winning the game,” Williams added. “We controlled the ball for long periods of the game. We won the physicality and that allowed us to take advantage of overlap and broken defense play.”
Glendale's Dustin Croy opened up the scoring ten minutes into the match after the Raptors consistently attacked the Life West defensive line. The Gladiators responded by exploiting an overload on the weak side as Make Tameilau skipped down the sideline beating the wing to the endzone. The Life West flyhalf missed the conversion and Glendale led, 7-5.
At the 28th minute, Glendale found itself deep in enemy territory knocking on the door of the tryzone. With a five-meter scrum, the ball was spun wide to the wing where Seth Halliman dotted it down. Soon after, the Raptors were again in the same position and this time, walked the scrum in for a #8 Zac Pauga try. At the end of the half, the Raptors held the 19-5 advantage.
Emerging from the break, Glendale kept its foot on the gas continuing to use the overload to its benefit. First half try-scorer Croy completed his hat trick with the first two tries of the frame, but Life West countered with a nifty grubber to Pite Lopeti for the score.
The Raptors didn’t let up as captain Zach Fenogolio extended Glendale’s tally to 36-12 with a try down the sideline before Life West wing Anthony Munoz dotted the ball down following a hard run by Alex Pedjase. The Gladiators were unable to find the tryzone for the rest of the game as the Raptors finished the game with two tries by fullback Maximo DeAchaval to win 50-19.
Coach Williams praised the efforts of Zach Fenologio, Connor Cook, Shaun Davies, Will Holder, and Giorgi Tsverava in the victory as well as reserves James Delbosque and Devon Vaughter, who brought energy to pitch in the second half. “I was really happy on how our guys performed conditioning-wise, the systems we stuck to, and our pattern of play,” Williams remarked.
On the opposite side, Life West head coach Adriaan Ferris said, “It was a poor effort from us. We were substandard with our mental preparation and it showed. We lacked having the right attitude and intensity that is required against quality opposition. There are no excuses, it was pretty simple really - Glendale had more energy and enthusiasm than we did.”
“I know we have just come off a tough early season campaign, but we were taught a lesson in attitude and effort,” Ferris added. “Our scrum was non-existent and our effort at lineout time was abysmal. When you let an opposition as good as Glendale dominate the set piece and gift them a ton of possession - we ultimately spent too much time defending. Towards the end of the game, the lack of effort on defense was embarrassing. We let ourselves and our supporters down.”
Ultimately, Ferris said that his team needs to play harder and more focused to compete with a club like Glendale. “We made too many unforced errors, lacked being direct enough with our attack and were soft on defense. Glendale was more structured and far more professional in their approach to the game.”
The Gladiators will get their chance for a rematch on May 13th at Infinity Park, Colo. In the meantime, Life West will continue its DI Pacific North schedule at SFGG this Saturday while Glendale hosts BYU on February 11th.