The eighth-best Colorado Raptors match of all-time comes from a fork in the road that was the 2019 season.
The Raptors found themselves in fifth place in the Major League Rugby table heading into their home match against a fourth-place Rugby United New York team that sat at 8-2 through 10 matches. With the home stretch of the season right around the corner, this match against RUNY was MASSIVE for the Raptors.
After falling to the San Diego Legion 46-15 on the road just a week earlier, the Raptors entered into the match with 33 points in the table. Having beaten the Raptors in their first meeting of the season just a month earlier, the Raptors – trailing RUNY for the fourth and final playoff spot by four points – could not afford to get swept by the Roosters. A loss to RUNY would not only serve as a massive blow to the Raptors playoff chances, but it would also serve as their first-ever MLR loss on their home pitch at Infinity Park.
2019 was a year of up and down performances for the Raptors, and as they go set to head into their biggest match of the season to that point, it was unclear what kind of performance they would put on. From the jump though, the Raptors made it clear that they had come to play.
In what was about as even of a match that the MLR had seen thus far, it was a herculean run by inside center Chad London that kept the Raptors playoff chances alive and sent RUNY back to New York with their third loss of the season at the same time.
The Raptors got off to a strong start in the match and took a 6-0 lead into the 20-minute hydration break off of two penalty goals from fullback Dylan Taikato-Simpson. But the Raptors, RUNY, and everyone else in the stadium that night in April knew that the match wasn’t going to be that easy.
In the see-saw battle that it was, RUNY answered back with two penalty goals of their own from wing Connor Wallace-Sims over the course of the second 20-minute stanza.
The first try of the match didn’t even occur until the 40th minute. After applying the pressure to RUNY deep in their own territory, the Raptors used a five-meter scrum to really take the wind out of the Roosters sails just before the half when No. 8 Murphy Taramai picked the ball out of the back of the scrum and peeled around the blindside. He found wing John Ryberg – the MLR’s leading try-scorer in 2019 – down the touchline and the Raptors took a 13-6 lead into the locker room after Taikato-Simpson’s successful conversion.
For as good as the Raptors started the first half, they started the second half just as bad. Connor Cook was given a yellow card deep in the Raptors territory just six minutes into the second half. It was on the ensuing scrum that RUNY would take advantage of the yellow card when John Quill picked the ball out of the scrum and rumbled in for their first try of the match. Fly-half Cathal Marsh evened the score with his conversion and the Raptors and RUNY locked their horns at 13 points apiece heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
The next 15 minutes consisted of good, hard rugby that eventually led to a Harry Bennett penalty goal that gave RUNY a 16-13 lead heading into the final five minutes of the match.
Just as it seemed as if the Raptors were going to let this huge opportunity slip through their fingers, Chad London came to the rescue. After taking a pass from fly-half Will Magie, London threw a dummy and spotted a hole in the RUNY defense. He used a big stiff arm to break a tackle to sneak through the gap and raced in for the match-winning try. Magie tacked on the conversion just as the final whistle rang through Infinity Park and the Raptors escaped with a 20-16 victory.
Not only was it one of the most exciting victories of 2019, but it was also the most important as it gave the Raptors a fighting chance at the playoffs with four matches to play.
Tries: John Ryberg, Chad London
Conversions: Dylan Taikato-Simpson (1/1), Will Magie (1/1)
Penalty Goals: Dylan Taikato-Simpson (2/2)
Rugby United New York
Tries: John Quill
Conversions: Cathal Marsh (1/1)
Penalty Goals: Connor Wallace-Sims (2/2), Harry Bennett (1/1)