From the highlight-reel tries and show-stopping tackles to the roar from the raucous, sell-out crowd, the first-ever professional rugby union match played in Canada was unquestionably full-value for fans, but a last-gasp try from the NOLA Gold dashed Marcello Wainwright and his Toronto Arrows teammates hopes of securing a win in the club’s 2019 home opener.
A sold-out crowd of 3,081 took in the match at York Alumni Stadium, and was treated to an engaging, back-and-forth affair that ultimately saw the visiting Gold steal a 35-31 win after NOLA lock Ignacio Dotti scored a try on the final play of the game.
Toronto enjoyed a dream start to life at home, with wing Dan Moor scoring less than a minute into the match. Outside centre Spencer Jones started the scoring play with a slicing run through NOLA’s defensive line, and after drawing defenders in, he sprung Moor with a deft pass.
The Arrows’ joy would be fleeting, as the top-seeded Gold wasted little time responding. Just minutes after Moor’s opening try, NOLA was awarded a penalty try and Arrows wing Avery Oitomen was sin-binned for what the referee deemed as a dangerous tackle in the corner. The Gold struck twice more with the man advantage, scoring back-to-back tries from fullback JP Eloff and outside center Tristan Blewett to put the visitors up 21-7 after 13 minutes.
Urged on by home supporters, momentum began to swing back in Toronto’s favor, and the hosts were rewarded after fullback Gaston Mieres went over in the corner in the 25th minute.
New Orleans hooker Eric Howard added to the visitors’ lead when he barged across in the 31st minute, but the Arrows answered back just before the stroke of the halftime whistle. After Gold lock Kyle Baillie was issued a yellow card for a high tackle, Mieres scored his third try in two matches following a pinpoint long-distance pass from fly-half Sam Malcolm.
Toronto regained the lead after receiving early second-half tries from scrum-half Andrew Ferguson and prop Morgan Mitchell, putting the hosts ahead 31-28.
While the opening 55 minutes of the match featured a nine-try scoring spree, the remaining 25 minutes became a defensive showcase. The two sides traded possession until late in the match, when NOLA slowly advanced into Toronto territory to eventually score the winner at the death.