The Glendale Raptors had been expecting a home-and-away DI league season, and so played the Denver Highlanders last week in what had become a friendly.
Not so friendly for Denver, as the Raptors gave the Highlanders a keeker to the tune of 94-3.
Now the Raptors, under new Head Coach Andre Snyman, look to take on the Kansas City Blues, impressive victors in a league game 50-7 over Boulder last week.
Snyman has some work to do, though, to make sure this team is on the right track.
“The big thing stepping in as a new coach is that we’re all clear that we’re part of a process,” Snyman told RUGBYMag.com. “We have a very young team – a lot of 18-,19-, 20-year-olds. This is great for the club but we’ve got some work to do as we get the youngsters involved.”
Snyman said the development of a successful DII team has helped the Raptors, as he has been able to use the DI places as incentives. He is also not afraid to take a few risks.
“I would rather lose and learn something, than win and not learn anything,” he said. In this attitude, he is in step with Mark Bullock, who is no longer Head Coach but remains Director of Rugby. Both want to develop young players, and give them opportunities to grow. But one wonders what the Raptors garnered from last weekend.
One thing they did get was a start from Ata Malifa. The flyhalf is back from injury and got on the scoresheet with a try and five conversions. He replaced James Paterson at flyhalf. The USA wing/center was brought in to wear the #10 jersey against Life University. Paterson was there because he is an experienced rugby player. But the return of Malifa is welcome on such a young squad.
Last Saturday Paterson was back in his customary position and responded with two tries and five conversions.
But Snyman’s concern isn’t who plays at #10 this week. His concern has to be in the set piece. Both hookers, Stan Moaalii and Zach Fenoglio, will be with the USA Selects team as they prepare for the Americas Rugby Championship. Center Justin Pauga takes on the captaincy role from former collegiate All American Fenoglio, but Glendale will need the forwards to win ball if Pauga and his fellow backs will get a chance to run.
And Kansas City is certainly dangerous out wide. Kenny Scott is all sorts of trouble in the midfield and Marty Cummings at fullback just dares you to kick to him. Kelly Mercer at flyhalf is an excellent footballer, also.
This may be a case of two teams with such good backlines, that the more successful forward pack decides the game’s fate.
Glendale hosts the Blues in this match, and that’s key. Winning on the road in any of the USA’s DI leagues, but especially in the widespread West-North, will be difficult.
Also on tap this weekend, wounded Boulder visit the even more wounded Denver Highlanders. Still to play are the Denver Barbarians and Provo. Happily enough, those two play each other, in Utah, a week later.