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All photos by Pat
Glendale's Cristian Sarmento en route to try against KC
Shae Tamate and Connor Harding
tearing down Barbo ballcarrier
Reed breaking away from
Harlequins in final
Young Quins on attack in
Kenny Scott speeding past
Marcus Neal of the Rogues
The Glendale Raptors looked vulnerable at times during their championship bid at the Harlequin Cup (the first of three West qualifiers) in Irving, Texas Saturday. They didn’t lose, going 5-0 on the day, but seemed anything but unbeatable on a couple occasions.
The first was in the
tournament’s opening game against the Kansas City Rogues. The Rogues
arrived at the pitch minutes before being forfeited, rushing to kit up
before the opening whistle. They kicked off, gained possession and scored
within the match’s first 30 seconds when Marcus Neal dragged multiple
Glendale defenders into the try zone.
Glendale ended up
winning the match 29-7, not allowing the Rogues another sniff of the try
line the rest of the way, but they led by just one try at
“I think that was
maybe what we needed,” said Glendale coach Andre Snyman of the early
deficit, “and it gave my guys a bit of a wake up call…I just told them to
keep their composure, because we have a long day of rugby ahead of
In their second pool
game, the Raptors crushed Fort Worth Elite 35-0, looking every bit as
strong as one would expect from a team comprised of Ata Malifa, Dewon Reed
and a cast of other DI 15s national champions.
Their third pool
play game was a narrow win, 17-14, over the Denver Barbarians. The Barbos,
six-time defending West champs, did not have as star-studded a roster as
they’ve boasted in the past, and they likely won’t all summer with Mark
Bokhoven and Nic Johnson trying to make the World Cup roster, but they are
still a salty side.
The Raptors got
their second wake up call of the day from another Kansas City team, the
Blues (who had gone 2-1 in Pool B) in their semifinal match. Glendale
looked out of sync the entire contest, and the Blues were playing feisty,
Still, Glendale led 12-7 with about two minutes to play. The Blues were awarded a lineout in the middle third of the field, which they won. They swiftly switched the ball wide to Kenny Scott, who had scored a long-range try at the death of Kansas City’s 14-12 pool win over the Woodlands Exiles earlier. Scott used his long stride to stretch Glendale’s defense and cut against their angle of pursuit, centering the go-ahead try that was soon converted and putting the Blues up 14-12.
All that was left to
play was the kickoff. If the Blues got the ball out of bounds or forced a
scrum, it’d be over. Glendale calmly took the kickoff and got the ball in
Malifa’s hands. He made a pair of defenders miss and offloaded to Shae
Tamate, who dished to Tim Muraguri. Just as Scott did in pool play to the
Exiles, Muraguri ripped the heart out of the Blues with a try at the death
to win, advancing Glendale to the final.
The host Harlequins,
who went 3-0 in pool play, defeating the Blues, Exiles and Austin Huns,
played the Barbos in the other semifinal. Dallas led the majority of the
match, and it took a late Denver try near full time to put them down a
single score, which is where they’d end, as the Quins held on for a
relatively comfortable 21-14 victory. Gonzalo Ruiz and Zac Mizell were
exceptional for Dallas not only in the semifinal, but all day.
match was never in doubt. The Raptors, now fully aware of their
beatability, were sharper than they had been all day. Malifa raised his
game to another level, drawing multiple defenders consistently and
conducting the flow of the game with precision, leading Glendale to a
blowout 34-7 victory.
“He’s a great
manager. He controls the game, he knows when to pull out, when to settle
things down, and that’s why I’ve got him on the team,” said Snyman of
Malifa. “He’s like the levelheaded guy on the team, and he just sets up the
No one benefited
from Malifa’s work more than Reed, who scored three tries in the final and
took home Man of the Match honors.
“He’s a real
world-class player in his own right. He’s got really lightning feet, he’s
got a good step, he reads the game, he runs good lines, he’s got power, so
yeah, he’s got the whole package,” said Snyman of Reed.
“I would really like
to see him in the future maybe playing for the Eagles, because I think
he deserves it. He’s and all-around player, he’s a character on and
off the field, and that’s what a team needs.”
The tournament win puts Glendale atop the West standings with 6 points. Dallas trails with six, Denver secured two series points with a lopsided third-place win over the Blues, who are awarded one point. The next West qualifier is July 9 in Kansas City. Glendale will not be in Kansas City to attempt a repeat, but Aspen is expected to make its qualifier debut there.