After slow starts in the early part of their Major Rugby Championship (MRC) campaign, the Glendale Raptors got things going early and often in their return to Infinity Park against Rugby Utah. After 80 minutes of action under an overcast sky, the Raptors arose victorious in an 94-17 win. The 77-point margin of victory marked the largest by Glendale this season, which remains undefeated for the 2017 campaign.
The Raptors broke out for a 12-0 lead in the opening six minutes of the match with tries from Johnny Ryberg and Dustin Croy. Ryberg dotted down his second try of the match six minutes later to extend the lead to 19-0.
Joseph Nichols helped Rugby Utah pull back a try on the ensuing possession, which went converted to cut the Raptors’ lead to 19-7. Utah continued to chip away with a converted penalty kick at the 19-minute mark to cut the lead to 19-10.
Minutes later, Maximo de Achaval connected with Chad London for Glendale’s fourth try of the match, extending the lead to 26-10.
Shortly after the Glendale try, the Raptors suffered their first injury of the match, as John Quill went off for substitute Devin Vaughter.
But the Raptors didn’t miss a beat, adding to their lead with another try from flanker Peter Dahl after a strong push by the pack from within five meters, putting the score at 33-10 in favor of Glendale.
After weathering the ensuing possession from Utah, a long run from de Achaval set up what looked to be another try, but a rule from the Television Match Official (TMO) determined no try. Nonetheless, the Raptors capitalized on the ensuing knock-on and scrum to score another try and extend their lead to 40-10.
Ata Malifa got into the action on the ensuing possession for Glendale, offloading to Croy for his second try of the match and extending the lead to 47-10. Glendale topped that off with a final try before the halftime whistle from Ryberg to put the score at 52-10 at the break.
Despite the dominant display in the attack, Raptors head coach David Williams was perhaps more impressed with holding Rugby Utah to just 10 points and a single try in the opening 40 minutes of action.
“I think defensively, we’ve been great,” Williams said at halftime, mentioning that such an effort against their regional rivals was “tremendously important” in the grand scheme of the Raptors’ MRC campaign.
The Raptors head coach also gave props to the hundreds of fans which made it out to support their local rugby club who weathered the rainy conditions and cool temps.
“It’s phenomenal,” Williams said of the support. “I think the more fans we can get out, the boys love it.”
For the opponents, the first half proved to be humbling with Rugby Utah head coach Blake Burdette stating, “There were some lessons to be learned in that first half.”
Glendale kept it going to open the second half, rewarded with a long and strong run from deep by Ryberg, who finished off with the try and the hat trick to put Glendale ahead 59-10 in the opening moments of the stanza.
A shorthanded Utah responded at the 52-minute mark when Ben Nichols dotted down a second Utah try of the match to cut the lead to 59-17.
The Raptors responded with a strong run up the middle of the Utah defense by Croy, who broke multiple tackles before the ball was eventually offloaded to Connor Cook on the wing off the ruck. Cook scored his first try of the match to put the score at 66-10 in favor of Glendale.
The scoring continued for Glendale three minutes later with Ryberg finding the try zone for the fifth time, extending Glendale’s lead to 73-17 in the 57th minute.
The effort earned Ryberg selection as the Glendale Raptors’ Rugby Athletic Player of the Match.
“I’m just out there on the wing, so it just means the 14 people playing aside me are playing for me,” a modest Ryberg said postgame. “Just making the [23-man roster], we’re out there killing each other every week in practice. So it was great to get out there and score some tries.”
Eight minutes later, Dahl chipped in with a hat trick of his own on the Raptors’ ensuing try, which pushed Glendale to 80 points on the day and an 80-17 lead. Glendale wasn’t finished. Team captain Zach Fenoglio himself got in on the scoring action, tapping down off a rolling maul to extend the lead to 87-10 in the 67th minute.
After being the assist man for several of the Raptors’ previous tries, de Achaval found the try zone himself in the 74th minute, extending Glendale’s lead to 94-17, which would mark the game’s final score.
The Raptors will now head into a bye week, but will keep their focus on Utah, with an upcoming road trip ahead to face BYU in Provo (1 p.m.) on March 25. The Raptors will then return to Infinity Park on April 8 to face New Orleans (3 p.m.) which is preceded by Division One women’s match between the Glendale Raptors and Utah Vipers (1 p.m.)