Glendale took a mixed side to Kansas City for a friendly Saturday and emerged with a 29-22 win. The Raptors and Blues traded barbs throughout the match, with Glendale never pulling far away.
Last time Glendale came to Kansas City with its full arsenal, the Blues tied them, so the Raptors knew they were in for a fight.
“Kansas City at their home ground is always a tough game,” said Glendale coach Andre Snyman. “The guys play with passion and we try to just break their little voodoo doll. As you can see, right until the end it was anybody’s game.”
Glendale’s Cody Melphy and Kansas City’s Kelly Mercer swapped penalties to open the contest. Then Glendale scrumhalf Bradley Winbush made a big break in open field play, darting around several tacklers before offloading to Mike Kenyon for the try. Melphy converted, putting Glendale up 10-3.
The Blues answered back with some broken play creativity of their own, flyhacking a loose ball in Glendale’s end into the try zone and jumping on it for the score. Mercer converted, knotting the game at 10-10.
The Blues then stubbed their own toes by giving possession to Glendale deep in their own end with a forward pass. A couple of phases later, prop Chad Slaby bowled over a couple of would-be tacklers and ran in for a try. Melphy converted, making it 17-10.
“Good effort on them,” said Slaby. “They got low, I got a little bit lucky, I got over the top and got through. Short field, prop loves that.”
The Blues nearly got that score back after fullback Ed Mills made a long break. He dished the ball to Mercer, who was brought down. Led by Winbush, the Raptors quickly drove over the ruck and won possession back in their own end to take the seven-point lead into halftime.
Glendale extended the lead in the beginning of the second half when Melphy turned a Blues penalty into an attacking lineout with a booming kick. Max Statler scampered in off of a set play following a win of the set piece. The try converted, Glendale led 24-10.
The Blues clawed back into the contest shortly after, though. They posted up their No. 8 on the left wing, and once they were able to get the ball wide, he crashed in for a try. Mercer converted, making it 24-17.
Glendale scored its final try off of another attacking lineout, mauling Slaby over for his second touch down of the game. The conversion was missed, leaving the Raptors up 29-17.
The Blues didn’t fold, however, and they drove into the attacking end with the help of some penalties. Kansas City was awarded several more penalties from the attacking five-meter, but the Raptors kept repelling the scoring efforts. Glendale’s staunch goal line defense milked several minutes off the clock and frustrated the Blues, but the home team eventually got in. The conversion missed, the Blues trailed 29-22.
Glendale managed to keep Kansas City at bay for the final few moments of the game and escaped with a hard-fought win.
“Full credit to the boys” said Slaby. “The last 10 minutes of that we really stuck into them, gave them a good couple of hits up, put them back on their back foot a bit, unlucky on a couple penalties, but that’s the way of it. Came out with a win.”
Several notable Raptors didn’t make the trip, like Ata Malifa, Shaun Davies, Nic Johnson, Zach Fenoglio, James Aldridge, Dewon Reed and David Williams. Some of them had to stay home to play in Glendale's DII league game against Colorado Springs so they could be eligible for the postseason.
The DI Raptors have only one league game this spring, and those coming off of injury or joining the team midseason need to register three “qualifying matches” to be eligible for the postseason, per USA Rugby’s eligibility regulations.
Glendale's top side turns its attention back to the Elite Cup next week as Old Puget Sound Beach comes to town. The Blues host an important game against the Denver Highlanders next week. If they win, they'll clinch the West-North's fourth seed for the postseason.