An exciting match between two new but familiar teams takes place on Saturday when the Ontario Arrows travel south to face the Glendale Merlins as part of the 10-year anniversary celebrations for Infinity Park. The contest also takes on a bit of historical significance, this will be the first ever match for the Arrows, a newly-created privately-funded team built on the foundations of the hugely successful Ontario Blues program. Glendale are better known as the Raptors but with that brand now reserved for Major League Rugby, it’s the Merlins banner that will be flown on Saturday.
The two sides met under slightly different conditions in May when the Raptors were hosted by the Blues in Burlington. On that day Ontario were the clear winners taking a 43-25 result to end Glendale’s up-to-then perfect start to 2017. Most of the big names who took part will again be present but there are a few others added to this occasion.
Glendale will have a different front row this time around, with former Northern Arizona football player and High School All-American Kelepi Fifita coming in at tighthead and PRO Rugby standout Luke White starting at loosehead. World Cup hooker Zach Fenoglio is back in to skipper the side after missing out on the trip to Canada in May. Former Eagles flanker Peter Dahl also returns on the openside to complete a formidable forward park that also includes Ben Landry and John Quill.
The Merlins backline is just as impressive, with test players in the halfbacks and the midfield. Shaun Davies and Will Magie will distribute to Bryce Campbell and Chad London. Outside them former Junior All-American Dustin Croy and USA 7s cap Seth Halliman provide are able finishers. Two more Eagles caps are on the bench in veterans Mose Timoteo and Ata Malifa.
Ontario will arrive with a strong team of their own, with eight Canadian internationals in the run-on side. Rob Brouwer captains in the front row alongside Eric Howard, with Atlantic Rock prop Alex Forrest named in the No 3 shirt. Lucas Rumball and Andrew Wilson are in the back row with ‘A’ internationals Mike Sheppard and Hank McQueen partnered in the engine room. Another test cap, Paul Ciulini, is set to be an impact substitute.
Canadian internationals Patrick Parfrey and Guiseppe du Toit bolster the backline in their first appearances in an Ontario shirt. The versatile duo will wear 10 and 12 respectively but can be expected to mix up the first receiver role. du Toit also offers a long-range option to scrumhalf Andrew Ferguson’s accurate goal kicking. Kainoa Lloyd is the danger man out wide after leading the Canadian Rugby Championship in try-scoring.
While the Arrows will not officially be part of Major League Rugby in 2018, they have not hid their interest in the new endeavor and this could well be a precursor to Canadian participation coming to fruition in 2019. For that reason alone this match holds real significance in the long-term viability of professional rugby in North America. The stakes are high and if the Burlington match was anything to go by, Saturday’s match promises to be every bit as captivating.
1 Kelepi Fifita, 2 Zach Fenoglio (capt.), 3 Luke White, 4 Ben Landry, 5 Casey Rock, 6 Connor Cook, 7 Peter Dahl, 8 John Quill, 9 Shaun Davies, 10 Will Magie, 11 John Ryberg, 12 Bryce Campbell, 13 Chad London, 14 Dustin Croy, 15 Seth Halliman
Replacements: 16 James Del Bozque, 17 Blake Rogers, 18 Giorgi Tsverava, 19 Devin Vaughter, 20 Grigori Kerdikoshvili, 21 Mose Timoteo, 22 Ata Malifa, 23 Maximo de Achaval
1 Rob Brouwer (capt.), 2 Eric Howard, 3 Alex Forrest, 4 Mike Sheppard, 5 Hank McQueen, 6 Peter Milazzo, 7 Lucas Rumball, 8 Andrew Wilson, 9 Andrew Ferguson, 10 Patrick Parfrey, 11 Jon West, 12 Guiseppe du Toit, 13 Josh Campbell, 14 Kainoa Lloyd, 15 Johnny Sheridan
Replacements: 16 AJ Quattrin, 17 Pat Lynott, 18 Ryan Surgenor, 19 Paul Ciulini, 20 Marcello Wainwright, 21 Mario van der Westhuizen, 22 Mitch Richardson, 23 Kyla Lagasca
Date: Saturday, September 9
Venue: Infinity Park, Glendale
Kickoff: 15:00 local / Mountain (14:00 Pacific, 17:00 Eastern)
Broadcasts: Live Stream