TORONTO — The Toronto Arrows' playoff hopes took a blow Sunday in a 41-17 loss to Rugby New York in Major League Rugby play.
The Arrows trailed 24-7 after the first half on a sunny afternoon at York Lions Stadium with New York displaying some hard-nosed defence and free-flowing offence. Toronto scored 10 unanswered points after the break to cut into the lead but could not catch the New Yorkers.
Chris Brown and Lolani Faleiva scored tries for Toronto. Sam Malcolm kicked a conversion and a penalty and the Arrows got an automatic conversion for a try scored under the posts.
The 22-year-old Brown, who suffered a lower body injury in pre-season, was making his pro debut with the Arrows supply of scrum halves decimated by injury.
Ed Fidow scored two tries for New York with Kalolo Tuiloma, Jack Heighton, Dylan Fawsitt, Brendon O'Connor and Faaisu Fuatai adding singles. Heighton also booted three conversions.
The bonus-point win moved Rugby New York (8-4-0, 42 points) past Rugby ATL (8-4-0, 41 points) into second place in the Eastern Conference behind the New England Free Jacks (11-1-0, 52 points). Rugby ATL lost 44-26 on Saturday at the Utah Warriors.
Toronto (6-6-0, 30 points) remains in fourth place.
The top team in both the East and West receives a first-round playoff bye, with No. 2 and No. 3 teams in each conference facing off to see who plays them.
The Arrows have four games left in the regular season, three at home and the other at Rugby ATL. Toronto hosts the expansion Dallas Jackals next.
Tuiloma, a Samoan international, set the tone in the fifth minute with a crushing tackle that drove back Arrows lock Mike Sheppard, no feather at six-foot-three and 240 pounds.
Mistakes by the Arrows led to a New York lineout at the Toronto five-metre line and Tuiloma crashed over for a try in the eighth minute.
A Toronto turnover turned into a rapid-fire New York attack with Fidow, a member of Samoa's 2019 World Cup team, racing down the wing for a converted try in the 11th minute and a 12-0 lead.
Fidow and No. 8 Kara Pryor combined down the left flank before putting Heighton in alone for a third try and a 17-0 lead in the 19th minute.
After a water break, Toronto responded with a try by Brown after a quick-tap penalty by Irish No. 8 Ronan Foley opened up the New York defence. Malcolm's conversion cut the lead to 17-7.
New York answered quickly, taking an Arrows kick and attacking the Toronto defence with Fidow scoring his second in the 23rd minute for a converted try and 24-7 advantage.
A try by New York centre Jason Emery in the 43rd minute was called back for a forward pass.
Faleiva scored under the posts for a converted try in the 48th minute after another linebreak by Foley, cutting the New York lead to 24-14. The New Zealand prop was making his first start for the Arrows after nine appearances off the bench this season.
A Malcolm penalty kick in the 53rd minute reduced the margin to 24-17.
New York upped the lead to 29-17 when Fawsitt crashed over at the back of a maul in the 60th minute after a Toronto penalty led to a lineout deep in the Arrows end. The visitors added a try by O'Connor in the 64th minute, capping off a fine run by Fidow.
Fuatai padded the lead with a 79th-minute try, cutting through the Toronto defence.
Toronto won 14-10 when the two teams met at New York on March 27. New York was 5-1-0 before it ran into the Arrows back then, going 2-3-0 prior to Sunday.
Andrew Coe started on the wing for Rugby New York with fellow Canadian international back Quinn Ngawati coming off the bench in the second half.
The Arrows were coming off a bye week following a 29-17 loss at the Houston SaberCats. Toronto had won two of the three previous games before that, all at home.
Toronto, which has been dogged by injury much of the season, was missing 10 players — forwards Kyle Baillie, Mason Flesch and Marcello Wainwright and backs Chris Bell, Ross Braude, Kobe Faust, Andrew Ferguson, Brandan Ferguson, Spencer Jones and Dennon Robinson-Bartlett.
Despite the injuries, the Toronto matchday 23 featured 11 internationals: nine Canadians, one Argentine and one Uruguayan.
The injury bug has hit the Arrows scrum halves particularly hard with Andrew Ferguson out for the season (hamstring), Bell month-to-month and Braude week-to-week with lower-body injuries. Recent No. 9 signings Riley Di Nardo and Gord McRorie have completed their short-term spells with the team.
Newly signed Arrows scrum half Sam Reimer came on in the 71st minute. The 19-year-old from Pickering, Ont., who comes from Rugby Canada's national development academy, becomes the third teenager to play for the club, following Avery Oitomen (2019) and Faust (2021).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2022
The Canadian Press