As the new Toronto Arrows season is on the horizon, what better way to look forward than to examine the franchise lessons learned across five home game results in 2019.
The Toronto Arrows has only been in existence since 2017 when they were named the Ontario Arrows. They would eventually join Major League Rugby (MLR) for the 2019 season and renamed their team to the Toronto Arrows in 2018.
The Arrows had quite a successful homestand, winning all but one game in 2019. They played at Lamport Stadium and at Alumni Field in Toronto.
Toronto Arrows 2019: Top 5 home games
Keep in mind that this piece is an opinion piece. Everyone’s list is going to be different. One can give their opinions of their best-ever home games at LWOS Boards.
Toronto Arrows vs. Houston SaberCats (First-ever MLR home win)
The first-ever win at Alumni Stadium took place at Alumni Field in Toronto, Ontario. A big reason for this was the Arrows’ strong start in the first half as they scored the first three tries of the game. This includes tries from Kolby Francis, Theo Sauder, and Andrew Quattrin.
The SaberCats did tie the game, with two late tries late in the first half and a penalty try scored in the 44th minute. However, the Arrows would take control afterwards. Mike Sheppard and Kainoa Lloyd both had second-half tries and as a result, won the game 35-21. The attendance for this game was 1,575 at Alumni Stadium.
FULL TIME – Mission accomplished.
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) April 21, 2019
Arrows vs. NOLA Gold (First-ever pro rugby union game in Canada)
The first-ever pro rugby union game in Canada took place in April. Canadian Dan Moor scored the early 1st minute try for the Arrows but struggled for most of the half. However, New Orleans would score four tries in the first half including a penalty try. Gastón Mieres kept the Arrows in the game scoring two tries including one late in the first half.
This proved vital as the Arrows continued the momentum with two tries made by Andrew Ferguson and Morgan Mitchell. The Arrows led 31-28 in the dying moments of the game. However, in the 79th minute, the Gold found a way. Ignacio Dotti scored the game-winning try and JP Eloff made the conversion to give New Orleans the 31-35 win.
This was a heart breaker for the Toronto Arrows. However, it is important to remember the significance of this game. This was the first-ever pro rugby union game played in Canada. Furthermore, it marked the first time that a professional rugby union and league game was played in the same city.
The Toronto Wolfpack, Toronto’s first pro rugby league team was played against Oxford RLFC on May 6th, 2017. This is a remarkable accomplishment as professional rugby is less than a decade old in the Americas. The attendance for this game was 3,081 spectators. This ended up being the second-highest attended Arrows home game in the 2019 MLR season.
POST-MATCH // Co-Captain Dan Moor discusses the incredible fan support from our vocal sold-out crowd at York Alumni Stadium, and looks ahead to next week's tilt with @Austin_E_Rugby. #ArrowsUp 🏹🏉 pic.twitter.com/Eclkv0DuO8
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) April 7, 2019
Arrows vs. Seattle Seawolves (defeating the Defending Champions)
This was an incredible game by the Arrows as they defeated the defending champions the Seattle Seawolves. The Arrows led this game from start to finish. They led the first half 8-0 thanks to their stellar defence. Sam Malcolm converted a penalty, and Mike Sheppard scored a try.
The Arrows would continue their momentum with a 45th minute try by Leandro Leivas. They also scored the last two tries of the game with both Moor and Paul Ciulini getting tries. Seattle did get a try from Shalom Suniula in the 62nd minute, but it was not enough. The Toronto Arrows won this game 29-7.
The attendance of this game 2,187 on April 28th. This was probably the most impressive win for the Arrows. This game almost made second place but missed out because of attendance.
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) April 28, 2019
Arrows vs. San Diego Legion (first-ever home game at Lamport Stadium)
The first-ever Arrows game at Lamport Stadium was a classic. The San Diego Legion scored two tries in the first half thanks to JP du Plessis and Mike Te’o. The Arrows also did not score a single try in the first half. However, Sam Malcolm converted penalties in the 23rd and 26th minutes of play to keep them within striking distance. The Arrows trailed 6-12 after the end of the first half.
It started with Malcolm scoring a penalty in the 43rd minute and a Leandro Leivas try to take the lead in the 67th minute. The lead however was short-lived with a 71st minute try made by Joe Pieterson who also scored the extras. The Arrows trailed 16-19 with nine minutes left in the game. To give Toronto Arrows credit, they found an answer with a Steven Ng try that was made in the 78th minute. The extras were also converted and the Arrows won 23-19 over the Legion.
The first-ever game at Lamport Stadium for the Arrows had an attendance of 2,800. At that time, it was the second-highest attendance for the Arrows in the 2019 MLR season. Furthermore, it was also the highest-ever attended Toronto Arrows game at Lamport Stadium (excluding Alumni Field) at that point in the season.
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) May 5, 2019
Arrows vs. Rugby United New York (fight to make 2019 MLR Playoffs)
This was probably the most significant win for the Arrows in the 2019 season both on and off the field. Before the game began, Toronto was third place before the game began, but could lose their playoff spot with a loss against New York City. A win would mean the Arrows’ making the playoffs in their inaugural season.
This is what Toronto Arrows Director of Rugby Chris Silverthorn said before their final 2019 MLR season game against Rugby United New York according to the Toronto Arrows.
“We’re hungry going into this win-and-you’re-in fixture, but very little separates our two sides,” said Silverthorn. “You can see it in the standings, and you could see it when we played against New York earlier this season. We’re expecting a tight, hard-fought match, and with everything to play for, we’ll be leaving it all on the field this Sunday.”
It was not an easy game for the Toronto Arrows. The Arrows led 12-7 over Rugby United New York at the end of the first half. They took the lead thanks to tries done by Moor and Spencer Jones. However, a try by Jon Quill tied the game. Cathal Marshall then converted two penalties to take a 12-20 lead in the 58th minute. The Arrows needed a response to keep their playoff hopes alive. Andrew Ferguson scored the first try for the Arrows in the second half.
This took place in the 65th minute and Malcolm would add extras in the 66th minute, but the Arrows still trailed 19-20. In the 77th minute, Sam Mitchell came up with the match-winner scoring the game-winning drop goal with only a few minutes left in the game.
The Arrows would take this game 22-20. The attendance for this game was 3,180 spectators. This was the highest attended home game for the Toronto Arrows in the 2019 MLR season. They would lose in the semifinals 30-17 to the Seattle Seawolves. However, it was still a job well done for the Arrows in their inaugural season.
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) June 2, 2019
Lessons Learned for Toronto Arrows 2019 franchise
The Toronto Arrows had eight home games in 2019, winning seven of them. It showed the impact of the great support Arrows fans bring into MLR. One notable game not included was the Arrows against the Utah Warriors. It almost made the top five games in 2019, in which the Arrows won 28-21 at Lamport Stadium. It also showed MLR that Toronto is not just a rugby hotbed in Canada, but also a hotbed in North America.
A team all about development, the Arrows will not just help at the club level. They are also helping the Canadian national rugby union team be competitive. The significance of the Arrows and what it means for Canadian rugby union cannot be overstated. This is what Bill Webb, president and majority owner of the Arrows said on Talking Rugby Union said about the Arrows role in Canadian rugby union:
“Also, we want to grow our reputation as a top-quality franchise on and off the field. We want to be the organization that represents our country, our city, our province. Ultimately, we want to be a part of restoring Canada to where it should be. We want to be the team of choice that every Canadian player wants to play for.”
— Toronto Arrows RFC (@TorontoArrows) January 1, 2021
Their first game will take place on March 28 against the San Diego Legion in California. The Arrows will have eight home games (depending on COVID-19) and eight road games for a total of 16 games this season. One that is looking to be a breakthrough for the franchise, and for professional rugby union in Canada.
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