Marcello Wainwright and Toronto Arrows gave their inaugural-season playoff push a big boost, defeating the San Diego Legion 23 - 19 to propel the club to within three points of a post-season position.
Steven Ng’s Try in the final minute of the match sealed the comeback victory at Lamport Stadium, snapping the top-ranked Legion’s five-game winning streak.
Despite carrying the bulk of possession and territory in the opening half, the Arrows found themselves trailing 12-6 at the interval. Sam Malcolm kicked two penalty goals in the opening 40 minutes, but opportunistic tries from San Diego’s JP du Plessis and Mike Te’o provided the visiting side with a six-point cushion entering halftime.
After Malcolm added another goal in the opening stages of the second half, Toronto earned a man advantage in the 65th minute when the Legion’s Nate Augspurger was issued a yellow card for a high tackle. The Arrows capitalized just minutes later, with substitute Leandro Leivas darting in to score a try just minutes after entering the match.
San Diego wasted little time in drafting a response. The visitors marched back down the pitch and scored through captain Joe Pietersen following a scrum deep in Toronto territory, with the fly-half converting his own try to give the Legion a 19-16 lead.
The see-saw affair didn’t stop there. The Arrows stormed back minutes later, stealing the ball off a San Diego lineout deep in the visitor’s end. Legion prop Aaron Mitchell was then yellow carded in the 77th minute, providing Toronto with a window to earn a comeback.
Rather than kicking for points and playing for a draw, the Arrows instead opted for the scrum in front of the Legion’s posts. The decision proved to be the correct one; following the scrum, Ng muscled his way across for his first professional try to seal the Arrows’ third consecutive win.
“Every single one of our players made meaningful contributions today,” said Arrows captain Dan Moor. “We stuck to our gameplan, believed in our systems, and earned a win against a very strong opponent. We all believe we have the talent, drive and work rate to earn a playoff spot, and today was an example of how we’re going to do everything in our power to get us there.”
Sunday’s outcome ensures a season series sweep for Toronto over San Diego. The Arrows defeated the Legion 27-20 when the two clubs squared off in southern California on March 19. San Diego had not stumbled since, going 5-0-1 to jump to the top of the standings.
The victory improves Toronto’s record to 7-5-0, though the expansion club remains in sixth position in league standings with 38 points. The Arrows are now three points out of a playoff spot with four matches remaining.
San Diego’s bonus-point loss drops the California outfit to second place with a 9-3-1 record, but keeps the club just three points out of the top spot.
“This is going to be a big week for us,” added Moor. “With three games in a span of eight days, we’re going to be tested, and it’s up to us to bend but not break. Starting this tough stretch with a win is a big start, and we’ll look to take the momentum from today’s win and apply it against Austin and Utah.”