Raptors swoop to first Elite Cup victory

Capping off a full day of rugby events at Infinity Park this weekend was the much-anticipated Elite Cup match between the Glendale Raptors and Old Puget Sound Beach from Seattle. Warm weather and a large crowd greeted both teams as they took to the pitch in what would turn out to be a dynamic clash of rugby skill as Glendale bested OPSB 49-39.

Eight-man Nic Johnson pushed his way up the field and dished the ball to fly half Ata Malifa who got the scoring started just two minutes into the half. Scrumhalf Shaun Davies easily made the conversion kick. Davies would go on to have another impressive match, hitting five conversion kicks, three penalty kicks and touching down a try in the corner.

OPSB’s fly half Russell Armstrong (who had a great game) would put the first points on the board for his team several minutes later in the form of a penalty kick.

Both teams continued to relentlessly test and pressure each other offensively. P.W. Botha held up a try, only to have OPSB swing the ball wide after the reset and score on the far side.

The teams traded two more tries – DeWon Reed and Iniki Fa’amausili for Glendale, Armstrong twice for OPSB – to close out the half. At the half, Glendale was ahead by a single point, 21-20.

The second half was a showcase of the depth of the Raptors’ bench. Four different Raptors (Davies, captain Zach Fenoglio, Dustin Croy, and Reed) would find the try zone, on assists from nearly every other member of the team. Malifa, under heavy pressure, sent a quick chip kick to Reed who bested his defender and tried in the corner. Davies converted the points.

The support surrounding the tackle contest by both teams continued to be impressive, however Glendale ultimately did a better job of moving the ball into space and capitalizing on their opponent’s handling errors.

OPSB had another stretch of aggressive attacking, forcing several Glendale penalties, but they were unable to capitalize on the opportunities created until the 78th minute as Glendale won 49-39.

“I’m very proud of my boys for stepping up and showing heart and discipline, in spite of the one-on-one issues and soft tries we experienced tonight,” said Glendale Head Coach Andre Snyman. “You could really see the mind shift at the half, we came back onto the pitch [with] better structure in our playing.”

The Raptors will fly to San Francisco next weekend to compete in the last Elite Cup match of regular tournament play against San Francisco Golden Gate. SFGG is undefeated in the tournament, having bested OPSB 36-27 in March and the Denver Barbarians 29-23 this past Saturday.