Toronto Arrows provided a nail-biter for the fans at Lamport Stadium on Sunday, stealing a 22-20 victory in the waning minutes over Rugby Union New York.
The victory clinched a playoff spot in Major League Rugby for the expansion franchise.
Fly-half Sam Malcolm came through with an expertly-timed drop-goal in the 77th minute to put the Arrows (11-5) up by two points over the surprised New York side, after the home team had trailed for most of the second half.
“We trained it during the week,” said Malcolm. “We knew it was going to be a tight battle and if it came down to that situation, we just wanted to back ourselves.”
The Arrows held on for three more minutes, clinching a playoff spot for the men in blue and white, extending their winning streak to seven games.
New York (11-5) winger Connor Wallace-Sims got the ball rolling for the visiting squad in the fifth minute, dotting down after breaking through an arm tackle and finding daylight up the wing.
Arrows winger, and team captain Dan Moor scored a try in the 15th minute to open up the scoring for Toronto after jolting down the right flank and diving past the try-line.
“We had another good week of preparation, and we were able to get the job done and get into the playoffs,” said Moor. “It’s really exciting how our team has been building for the last two months and it reflected in our result.”
The Arrows led 12-7 at half, thanks to a try by winger Spencer Jones in the 19th minute.
Andrew Ferguson caught the RUNY side sleeping, cleverly restarting after a penalty, slipping through the try line to the delight of the 3,200 fans in attendance.
Both teams had opportunities to put more points on the board in the first half, but unforced errors and untimely fouls led to squandered chances.
The Arrows’ sloppy play spilled over into the second half as New York’s John Quill picked off an errant pass two minutes into the half, taking it to the house uncontested.
Playing in front of their home crowd seems to give the Arrows a big advantage, with a 7-1 record at home this season.
Moor attributes the team’s success in the second half of the season to the lack of travelling and to their supportive fans.
“In our league, you have to go to the West coast and those road trips are pretty difficult on the body from a recovery standpoint,” said Moor, “Credit to our fans who have really helped us.
“It’s been awesome the support we’ve seen this season and hopefully keep it going into the playoffs here.”
Malcolm also realizes the huge impact the fans have on the energy levels of the players while playing at home.
“The fans are a big influence on us,” said Malcolm. “It’s like having a sixteenth man on the field.”
The Arrows finish the season third in league standings, one point behind Seattle Seawolves. Despite being unable to clinch home-field advantage in the MLR Championship Series, the Arrows will look to continue their momentous winning streak at the Starfire Sports Complex against Seattle, June 9 at 9 p.m. ET.