Glendale unveiled Merlins brand with great rugby at Infinity Park
GLENDALE – This past weekend presented a celebration of rugby at Infinity Park as Glendale not only celebrated 10 years as RugbyTown USA, but also unveiled its newest chapter in rugby revealing the Glendale Merlins brand in front of home fans.
Glendale’s 10-year anniversary celebration was largely a success, with both men’s and women’s elite teams taking home wins, while the men’s development side fell in a close loss to their local rivals.
Photo by Seth McConnell
Division II Rugby – Denver 36, Glendale 24
Glendale started the day with a classic rivalry match as the men’s D2 team faced off with the visiting Denver Barbarians.
It was a grudge match as advertised, as the two sides exchanged tries and battled to a 14-14 score by halftime. After a converted penalty kick put Glendale up 17-14 in the second half, the Barbos kicked it into another gear, building a 33-17 lead by the 70-minute mark. Glendale would add another try five minutes later to draw within 33-24, but the Barbos would close out the match with a converted penalty of their own, and the visitors would take home the 36-24 win.
Photo by Seth McConnell
Men’s Elite Rugby – Glendale 41, Ontario 7
The Glendale Merlins men’s Elite team opened their home season against a top flight visiting opponent in the Ontario Arrows, a team comprised of some of Canada’s best ruggers.
“Ontario are a big physical team that has played a full season and made it to their Canadian Rugby Championships finals,” explained Glendale head coach David Williams. “They had threats all over the pitch and we needed to match them physically and gain an advantage at the point of contact and speed of ball.”
The game was tight in the early stages, with both teams exchanging tries to knot up the score at 7 near the half hour mark. But Glendale found a rhythm, as Will Magie scored a try and a penalty and teammate John Quill also found the try zone to give the hosts a 24-7 lead at the break.
Said Williams, “I thought John and Will stood out with John’s physicality in the tackle and lineout calling, and Will with his control of the game at 10 and taking opportunities to convert pressure into points.”
The pressure continued into the second half as the Merlins ballooned their lead to 41-7 in the closing stanza to secure the win.
“We increased our physicality at the point of contact leading to quicker play of the ball and then we took advantage of the overlaps that physicality created,” Williams said of the performance.
Glendale will look to continue that momentum into next weekend, as it fields a D1 team to compete in the 50th Annual Aspen Ruggerfest.
The Glendale men will then return to Infinity Park later this month to face Massachusetts-based Mystic River on Sept. 23. in another non-league match.
Photo by Seth McConnell
Women’s WPL – Glendale 20, Chicago 6
Finishing the day’s action, the Glendale Merlins women hosted Women’s Premier League (WPL) newcomers Chicago North Shore in their second league match of the current campaign.
“This game, our focus was primarily on continuing to implement and work within our systems,” explained Raptors forward Kristen “Shilo” Shalosky. “We also wanted to improve our defensive integrity over last game and establish physical dominance going into this match.”
A defensive first half ended with the Merlins leading Chicago by a score of 10-6.
Boosting the Merlins’ performance was a Player of the Match performance from Alli Hale. The Merlins “swiss army knife” helped slice through the opponents’ with several line breaks throughout the match.
“In addition to the fearless defensive play she showed in Berkeley, she showered North Shore with a ‘Hale storm’ of line breaks – two of which resulted in tries,” Shalosky said of her teammate.
In the second half, Glendale continued to tighten up defensively while tacking on two more tries, cruising to a 20-6 victory.
“I think that we played some courageous defense – and quite a bit of it – and we had streaks of absolute brilliance on attack when we connected with each other and executed our game plan,” Shalosky said of the performance. “We took a bit to get momentum in the first half, which was reflected in the score line. In the second half, we got a boost from our substitutes and a North Shore yellow card; we were able to capitalize with quick ball movement on attack to take and maintain the lead.”
The Merlins are now 2-0 in WPL play, which will resume with a road trip to face the San Diego Surfers on Sept. 16.
The Merlins will field both a men’s and women’s D1 team next week however, as Glendale competes in next weekend’s 50th Annual Aspen Ruggerfest.