With the recent news regarding the Colorado Raptors withdrawing from Major League Rugby, the thought of leaving the list unfinished crossed my mind. The longer that I thought about it, the more I figured that this list was the best way to remember both an incredibly important step in American rugby and a stint from a club that brought a lot of people a lot of happiness. While it’s okay to be sad about the news, I think it’s also important to remember some of the good times as well. There are people that want to learn about rugby and I want to help them. I will finish out this list for all of these reasons. I hope you’ll join me in remembering some of the best moments of the Raptors’ time in Major League Rugby.
The sixth-best Colorado Raptors match of all-time came out a turning point in the 2019 season.
In what served as the ninth match o the season for the Raptors, the 2018 Major League Rugby runner-ups found themselves sitting at a 3-2-3 record with a shot at the hottest team in the competition coming to town. The NOLA Gold began the 2019 MLR on a heater. When they arrived at Infinity Park for their matchup against the Raptors, they did so with a 6-1 record and their eyes on the top spot of the competition.
As the Raptors learned in their Week 2 matchup against the Gold, NOLA had no issues putting up points in 2019. The Gold averaged just above 35 points a match heading into their second matchup of the 2019 season against the Raptors. Glendale started the 2019 season on a two-match losing streak having played both of their first two matches on the road. The Gold used their high-powered offense to hand the Raptors a 40-31 loss and leave them searching for answers.
The Raptors would have to play their best rugby to avoid dropping both of their meetings against the Gold and sliding back under .500 with less than half of the season to play. While the Raptors didn’t play their best rugby of the season, they played well enough to fend off the Gold and stun them with a penalty goal in stoppage time to move to 4-2-3 heading into the back half of the season.
The first 20 minutes of the match couldn’t have started any better for the Raptors. They used a Will Magie penalty goal, a Michael Jorden-esque pick-and-go try from Chad Gough as he stretched his arm across the goal line, and a beautiful team try that started with a Mika Kruse linebreak and was finished by captain Shaun Davies to jump out to a 17-0 lead heading into the 20-minute hydration break.
Just as it looked like the Raptors were firmly in the driver’s seat, the Gold stormed back with a flurry of points on their own. Their run started with a try from flanker Nikola Bursic and was followed up with another try from captain Eric Howard less than five minutes later. After starting slow, the Gold took their first lead of the match just before halftime when wing Tim Maupin found a break in the Raptors’ defense with a full head of steam off of a lineout. Maupin raced in for the try and the Gold took a 21-17 lead into the locker room.
In a match that saw both teams trade off strong 20-minute stints, the Raptors continued the trend after the halftime break. They wasted no time retaking the lead and they did so with tries from two key reserves. The first came from Luke White who took a flat pass from Davies and rumbled in for a try that gave them a 24-21 lead after Magie’s conversion. The Raptors received some more help from Malon Al-Jiboori who finished off a nice linebreak from Davies in the 61st minute to put the lead to 31-21 at the 60-minute hydration break.
After the second productive 20-minute stint from the Raptors, it was the Gold’s turn to put up a few points. Cam Falcon was the beneficiary of a maul that cut the Raptors’ lead to just five points with a little under seven minutes to play. NOLA went back to their maul – and their captain Eric Howard – to punch in a try in the 78th minute of the match. J.P. Eloff it the conversion to give the Gold a 33-31 lead with a little over a minute to play, but the Raptors had other ideas.
NOLA secured the ensuing kickoff, but the Raptors forced the Gold into a penalty and the Raptors gained possession. They worked their way deeper into NOLA territory before earning a penalty in front of the posts. In the heat of the moment, Gough quick-tapped the ball instead of giving the Raptors a chance to kick for points and end the match. The Raptors ran through a few more phases before NOLA committed a penalty in the 82nd minute of the match and Robbie Petzer nailed the penalty goal to give the Raptors a 34-33 victory.
Tries: Chad Gough, Shaun Davies, Luke White, Malon Al-Jiboori
Conversions: Will Magie (3/3), Robbie Petzer (1/1)
Penalty Goals: Will Magie (1/1), Robbie Petzer (1/1)
Tries: Nikola Bursic, Eric Howard (2), Tim Maupin, Cam Falcon
Conversions: J.P. Eloff (4/5)
Penalty Goals: N/A
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