NOLA Gold hang on to spoil the Toronto Arrows' Major League Rugby debut - InfoNews

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NOLA Gold hang on to spoil the Toronto Arrows' Major League Rugby debut

January 26, 2019 - 2:06 PM

MARRERO, La. - The Toronto Arrows rallied for 24 points in the second half but their spirited comeback fell just short Saturday as they dropped their Major League Rugby debut 36-31 to NOLA Gold.

Expansion Toronto, Canada's first pro rugby union franchise, trailed 24-7 at the half but was a different team in the second half, cutting the lead to 24-19 with a pair of Dan Moor tries.

J.P. Eloff temporarily put an end to the Arrows' fightback in the 68th minute, going over despite a Toronto player hanging onto his legs. Eloff converted his own try to make it 31-19.

But a 71st-minute penalty try reduced the margin to 31-26 after the referee penalized the Gold for a deliberate knock-on near the goal-line. New Orleans responded two minutes later when, after Riley Di Nardo's box kick was blocked, South African Tristan Blewett booted it ahead and was first to get to the ball to touch it down.

The Arrows attacked in the final minutes and John Sheridan bounced off an attacker for another try, cutting the Gold lead to 36-31. A last-ditch Toronto move ended with an errant pass going into touch.

The Gold had dominated the first half, scoring two late tries with Toronto fullback Jack Evans in the sin-bin.

Former Canada sevens captain John Moonlight scored the first-ever try for the Arrows. New Zealand's Sam Malcolm, who played for Manawatu in New Zealand's second tier beneath Super Rugby, kicked two conversions.

Australians Scott Gale and Con Foley, Timothy Maupin and Canadian Eric Howard also scored tries for NOLA Gold. Eloff, like Maupin a U.S. international, kicked three conversions.

The New Orleans side went 3-5-0 in the North American pro circuit's first season in 2018.

The Arrows found themselves behind early with the Gold scoring in the third minute after an attack down the right flank by Maupin resulted in a Gale try.

Penalties frustrated the Gold in the early going. And Toronto evened the score in the 23rd minute when, after laying siege on the NOLA try-line, Moonlight bulled his way over from in-close.

The Gold responded quickly with Maupin beating several would-be tacklers down the sideline to touch down in the corner. Eloff was just short on a tough conversion attempt.

Toronto was reduced to 14 men temporarily when Evans was sin-binned late in the 31st minute for tripping Maupin. NOLA used the penalty to kicked for touch and Howard scored after a driving maul off the ensuing lineout.

The Gold added to their lead again soon after, with Foley touching down after some porous Toronto defence.

Arrows prop Rob Brouwer had to come off briefly midway through the first half to have a facial cut stitched up.

Toronto had a more positive start to the second half, with a multi-phase attack with Moor touching down in the corner in the 46th minute. After the forwards failed to take the ball over, scrum half Andrew Ferguson spun it wide and Moor finished off the attack. The converted try cut the lead to 24-14.

Moor came close minutes later but was caught near the try-line and the ball went into touch. Toronto attacked from the ensuing lineout near the Gold goal-line but turned the ball over.

Moor scored again in the 58th minute, with centre Spencer Jones — a New Zealander who qualifies to play for Canada via his bloodlines — deftly flicking on the last pass to his winger.

The Arrows are a beefed-up version of the Canadian Rugby Championship reigning title-holder Ontario Blues.

The young Toronto starting 15, whose average age is 25, featured 10 Canadian internationals with 126 caps between them. Seven players were graduates of the Canadian under-20 program.

The Gold featured three Canadian internationals: Howard, fellow front-rower Hubert Buydens and flanker Kyle Baillie. NOLA finished sixth in the then-seven-team league in 2018.

Because of the Canadian winter, the Arrows will play their first eight games on the road before an eight-game homestand between April 7 and June 2. The first four home games will be held at York University with the next four at Lamport Stadium.

The MLR final is scheduled for June 16.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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