Arrows Succumb to Late Second-Half Surge in Utah
An injury-ravaged Arrows side hung in with their hosts for the better part of an hour on Saturday afternoon, but the Utah Warriors took control of the match in the final quarter to earn a 47-19 comeback win at Zions Bank Stadium.
Lolani Faleiva, Gene Syminton and Ross Braude each scored a try in the contest, while Sam Malcolm added two conversions to bring his points tally to 39 on the campaign.
In temperatures hovering around zero degrees, Utah took an early lead via the boot of Joel Hodgson, with the ex-Newcastle man slotting a penalty goal in ninth minute.
The visitors responded minutes later, with Faleiva bulldozing through three would-be tacklers to score the game’s first try.
Following a 20-minute stalemate where neither side could find the edge, the match opened up in the final stages of the first half. Warriors No. 8 Thomas Tu’avao was issued a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, and the Arrows wasted little time converting with the man advantage; after Malcolm kicked to the corner on the ensuing play, Syminton peeled off the back of the maul from the lineout, directly taking on two defenders and muscling across to score.
The final say of the half went to the hosts: winger Joe Mano, who entered the game with three tries in four matches, scored against the run of play with an evasive break along the touchline to cut Toronto’s lead to four heading into the interval.
The Warriors’ momentum continued after the restart, and would pay dividends shortly thereafter, with Mano speeding in for his second try of the afternoon to put Utah ahead. Hodgson’s 58th-minute penalty increased the hosts’ lead to 18-12.
Sensing an opportunity to quell Utah’s surge, the quick-thinking Braude darted through a pair of defenders to score on a quick-tap penalty in the 62nd minute. Malcolm’s conversion put Toronto back in front, though the lead would be short-lived.
Utah responded three minutes later with a try from Paul Lasike, scored on the heels of a powerful run from Lance Williams, to restore the hosts’ lead. With momentum now firmly back on their side, the Warriors kept their foot on the gas pedal against the injury-depleted Arrows, and would be rewarded throughout the final minutes of the match.
Mano added his hat-trick tally in the 68th minute, gathering a cross-field Hodgson kick along the sideline before diving into the corner.
Another Hodgson kick found Mika Kruse on the other side of the field, with the centre acrobatically scooping the ball with one hand before touching down. Onehunga Havili powered over in the 73rd minute, and Utah captain Caleb Makene added a try in the corner at the final whistle.
Debutant Brenden Black, aged 18 years, 10 months, and 27 days and just activated to the Senior Team from the High Performance Academy, notably became the youngest starter in MLR history, as well as the youngest player to feature for the Arrows in a MLR match.
The record-breaking afternoon also saw Mike Sheppard become the franchise leader in all-time appearances (51), with the vice captain passing Paul Ciulini (50) for the outright lead.
2022 first-round draft pick Owain Ruttan made his first MLR start, and Hank Stevenson came on for his MLR debut when he entered the match for Mason Flesch in the 29th minute.
Ten Arrows — nine of whom had started matches earlier this season — were initially unavailable for the game due to injury. Will Grant and Adrian Wadden were late withdrawals and unable to participate, and the team’s bench was called upon early, with Syminton and Stevenson both entering the game in the first half after Ramon Ayarza and Flesch were forced to make early exits.
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Toronto (1-4; 5 points) enters Week 7 of the 2023 season with an away clash against Dallas (0-6; 4 points) on Saturday, April 1. The Arrows won their lone encounter with the Jackals in 2022, earning a record-breaking 57-0 home victory — the largest shutout win in MLR history — over the then-expansion side. The cross-conference meeting at Choctaw Stadium will kick off at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Toronto Arrows Stat Leaders:
Ball Carries: Fabian Goodall – 12
Carry Metres: Fabian Goodall – 87
Defenders Beaten: Sam Malcolm – 3
Tackles Made: Avery Oitomen, Owain Ruttan – 10
Offloads: Fabian Goodall – 2
Attacking Breakdown Arrivals: Owain Ruttan – 19
Defending Breakdown Arrivals: James O’Neill – 8
Utah Warriors Stat Leaders:
Ball Carries: Mika Kruse – 11
Carry Metres: Joe Mano – 203
Defenders Beaten: Joe Mano – 7
Tackles Made: Mika Kruse – 15
Offloads: Mika Kruse – 3
Attacking Breakdown Arrivals: Jamie Lane, Jurie van Vuuren – 12
Defending Breakdown Arrivals: Thomas Tu’avao – 7
Toronto Arrows Score Report:
Tries: Lolani Faleiva (15′), Gene Syminton (37′), Ross Braude (62′)
Conversions: Sam Malcolm 2 (38′, 63′)
Utah Warriors Score Report:
Tries: Joe Mano 3 (40′, 47′, 68′), Paul Lasike (64′), Mika Kruse (71′) Onehunga Havili (73′), Caleb Makene (79′)
Conversions: Joel Hodgson (8′, 65′, 74′)
Penalty Goals: Joel Hodgson (9′, 58′)
Toronto Arrows Lineup vs. Utah Warriors:
- Lolani Faleiva
- Ramon Ayarza
- Tyler Rowland
- Mason Flesch
- Mike Sheppard (VC)
- Owain Ruttan
- James O’Neill
- Lucas Rumball (C)
- Ross Braude
- Sam Malcolm (VC)
- Avery Oitomen
- Mitch Eadie
- Fabian Goodall
- Kobe Faust
- Brenden Black
- Gene Syminton
- Conan O’Donnell
- Isaac Salmon
- Hank Stevenson
- Adrian Wadden
- Will Grant
- Cole Brown
- Jack McRogers
Header Photo Credit: BHE Photos
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