Arrows look to win 12th straight regular-season game as they take on Colorado

The Canadian Press

The Toronto Arrows look to win their 12th straight regular-season game Friday when they visit the Colorado Raptors.

Continuity has been a key to their success in 2020, with 29 returning players from last season — their first in Major League Rugby. 

"Guys are really comfortable with each other, really happy," said director of rugby Chris Silverthorn. "I think the culture has been great. They're just happy to be here. They're always working.

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"There's no superstars. A new player each week just steps up and plays."

The Arrows and San Diego Legion, both 4-0-0, are the only unbeaten teams in MLR. San Diego leads the standings by one bonus point.

Colorado stands 11th at 1-3-0 but is coming off a 22-14 win over the visiting Utah Warriors.

Toronto finished off the 2019 regular season with seven straight wins before falling to eventual champion Seattle 30-17 in the playoff semifinal.

This season the Arrows have beaten the Austin Gilgronis (38-10), Houston Sabercats (27-22), Seattle Seawolves (39-17) and Rugby ATL (28-18), all on the road.

Some inspired recruiting has helped the Arrows maintain their winning ways.

Attack coach Peter Smith found fly half Tayler Adams and prop Richie Asiata while back home in Australia during the off-season. The two players share the same agent.

New Zealand's Adams is a playmaker with a flair for the unexpected. Asiata, born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, is a five-foot-nine 265-pound load who likes to run over people.

"He's been fantastic," Silverthorn said of Asiata.

"He's fit in well. He's probably got the best feet of any forward we have," he added. "He's hard to get a solid hit on, always makes the gain line and just does a great job."

A loosehead prop, Asiata can also play tighthead and will start in that role Friday, to give Cole Keith, named to the MLR team of the week after the win over Atlanta, a break.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Asiata was four or five when his family moved first to Sydney and then Logan, near Brisbane, to be near to relatives. He holds both New Zealand and Australian citizenship.

He worked his way through the rugby ranks, playing for the Queensland under-20 side and then the Australian U-20 team, taking part in the 2016 World Rugby Under-20 Championship. His play earned an invitation to train with the Queensland Reds.

He was playing Mitre 10 Cup rugby for Canterbury in New Zealand when the offer to play in North America came.

"I've been enjoying it," said the soft-spoken forward. "It's a new experience for me, being on the other side of the world. I'm not used to it. I'm still getting used to the weather back in Toronto. But apart from that, the footie's good, I love the boys. The boys have been very helpful."

The Arrows have three more away matches before their home opener April 4 against Utah.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2020.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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