The American Raptors opened up their inaugural Super Rugby Americas campaign with a 45-10 loss to Selknam last Saturday in Santiago, Chile.
As they turn the page to focus on Peñarol in Montevideo, Uruguay, the task doesn’t get easier, as they will now have faced the top two teams from the competition in the first two weeks of their first season in this new league.
Mix in the fact that both Selknam and Peñarol are both largely composed of the national team players that will represent Chile and Uruguay in this year’s Rugby World Cup, and you really start to understand the hill the Raptors are climbing through the first two weeks of the season.
Saturday’s loss to Selknam was close through the first 20 minutes of play. The Raptors found themselves down just four points after Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino nailed a penalty goal early in the match. Things started to go south when just before the half, eight-man Diego Magno became the first of three Raptors to receive yellow cards in the match.
Selknam eight-man Joaquín Milesi had already notched two tries on his way to a hat trick by halftime, and the Raptors trailed 19-3.
Things didn’t get much better for the Raptors in the second half, as fullback Ramiro Moyano received a yellow card right out of the break. Selknam poured it on in the second half, jumping out to a 38-3 lead before reserve hooker Franco Palillo stopped the bleeding with a try in the 74th minute of the match. Replacement fly-half Line Latu added the conversion to bring the score to 38-10, but Milesi added one more try before the final whistle to hand the Raptors a 45-10 loss and lock in his third try of the match.
While Round 1 didn’t go the way the Raptors wanted, it provided valuable experience for a team that will only benefit from it. Things will get better as the Raptors settle into this new competition. As they figure out the officiating, their strengths, and weaknesses as a team, and just get a general feel for the competition, I believe the scorelines will improve.
This is a new team in a new competition, and they are dealing with a different standard of officiating. Throughout the three matches that made up the opening round of the competition, the officials handed out 16 total cards. Every team that played last weekend received at least one yellow card, and four of the six teams in action received three yellow cards.
Despite a tough opening week, two Raptors put together good games on defense to earn their way onto the league’s leaderboard after Round 1. Ma’ake Muti finished the game with six total tackles while Sione Finefeuiaki finished with five. Neither player missed a tackle in Round 1.
The Raptors will have to be ready to be physical again this Friday as they get ready to take on last year’s SLAR champions in Peñarol, who will welcome the Raptors to Uruguay after enjoying an opening-round bye last weekend. This will be the second time that the Raptors and Peñarol have faced off, with the first coming back in June 2022 at Infinity Park as part of the Challenge Cup of the Americas. Peñarol defeated the Raptors 26-10 in that outing.
The Raptors will test their mettle against last year’s champions on Friday at 4 PM MT at Estadio Charrúa in Montevideo, Uruguay. Fans in North America can catch the match on ESPN+.