John Moonlight has represented Canada on numerous occasions, one being the HSBC Sevens World Series, but last Sunday this flanker represented Toronto in Major League rugby as a Toronto Arrow.
The locally born rugby union flank was disappointed to lose the Arrows’ home opener to the visitors from New Orleans, but the size of the crowd certainly grabbed his attention.
“We always knew there was a big background of people supporting rugby in Ontario and this proved it,” he said, after the club’s close 35-31 defeat in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,081 at York Lions’ Alumni Stadium. “Our first game on Canadian soil and … it’s only going to get better as soon as we move down to Lamport (Stadium, later in the season).”
Fullback Gaston Mieres of the Arrows put two tries on the board in the second half of the match but it was not enough to defeat NOLA Gold (from New Orleans) which won by a try in the last minute of the game.
Toronto started off strong with the first try of the match by winger Dan Moor, scoring less than a minute into the match, passed from Spencer Jones.
With the conversion Toronto was up 7-0 but NOLA caught up soon after. Within the first five minutes of the game a penalty try was awarded to NOLA due to an alleged dangerous tackle made by Arrows’ Avery Oitomen who was sin-binned.
NOLA scored another two tries within 13 minutes. Fullback Jean-Pierre Eloff and outside centre Tristan Blewett brought the score up to 21-7.
Mieres made his first try of the game at the 24th minute with no conversion bringing the score up for Arrows 21-12 with NOLA still ahead.
Hooker Erik Howard gave NOLA another try 30 minutes into the game but Mieres came back with his second try of the game for the Arrows nine minutes later, before the end of the first half.
NOLA went into the second half ahead 28-19 but the Arrows dominated in the second half playing most of it in NOLA’s end.
Arrows’ scrum half Andrew Ferguson brought the score up to 28-26 with his try but Arrows were still behind, although not for long.
Prop Morgan Mitchell put Toronto ahead 31-28 with his try, getting through two NOLA players who were trying to hold him back. Sam Malcolm was unable to make the conversion because the ball hit the right upright and bounced off.
Arrows stayed ahead until the last minute of the game. NOLA shifted into Toronto’s side of the field, broke through their defence and Ignacio Dotti made the winning try for NOLA. With the conversion NOLA ended the game 35-31.
For the second time this season the Arrows were beat by NOLA by one try. The last time these two teams played against each other the Gold beat Arrows 36-31.
Marcello Wainwright, flanker for the Arrows, recalls the last game the Arrows played against NOLA compared to the game last Sunday.
“They were both really close games, both within one score. I think both teams have improved a lot,” said Toronto flanker Marcello Wainwright, after the second match.
Moonlight believed nerves affected Toronto players in the first half on the match.
“You’re playing in front of friends and family,” he said, all scratched up post-match, standing in the middle of the field. “A lot of the guys, it’s their first time playing in front of family members at a high level.”
“We came out we were focused on our job and our tasks in second half and if we play like that going on from now it’s going to be a good year for us,” he said.
Wainwright, who stepped onto the pitch in the second half, had a lot of support from his family and the crowd.
“We are playing for this home crowd, we don’t want to disappoint them,” he said.
Toronto got double bonus points for this game and are now at (4-5-0) while NOLA are (7-2-0).
Arrows are sixth position in the league with 24 points.
Toronto plays next Sunday, April 14th against Austin Elite Rugby (0-9-0) at the York Alumni Stadium.