Merlins Rugby continues to soar

by | Oct 23, 2017 | Elite Women, Elite Men, U23 Men

GLENDALE – In their inaugural season, the Glendale Merlins continue to soar above the competition, as yet again, both the Merlins Women’s Premier League (WPL) side and the men’s elite team took victories this weekend. At Infinity Park, it was all about the women, hosting the visiting San Diego Surfers and holding on to a 27-18 victory in the final home match of the season. For the Glendale Merlins men, it was another road trip, defeating New York Old Blue for the second time this season in a dominant 50-36 result.

Merlins Rugby - Women's Elite Team

Photo by Seth McConnell

Both Glendale Merlins teams remain undefeated in 2017, with the Merlins women earning a vital bonus point with four tries scored, keeping a lead atop both the league and the WPL Blue Conference with 30 points in the table.

“The Surfers are a great team, and I stress team because they have so many weapons on the field,” said Merlins captain Sarah Chobot. “They are the defending champs, so that always brings a bit more excitement, but when you add in they beat us to get the crown adds a bit of bite. They have really good forwards that look to punish and turnover any ball they can, so we really stressed support.”

The Merlins women are quite familiar with San Diego, having previously defeated the Surfers by a score of 21-15 back in September on the road. Looking to defend their home pitch, the Merlins led from the start, as winger/fullback Allie Hale scored the opening try to give Glendale a 5-0 advantage following a strong defensive showing by the hosts.

With multiple penalties taken by both sides, Glendale eventually built up a 15-6 lead by halftime.

The Surfers kept things close in the second half, scoring the opening try of the stanza to close the gap to 15-13 with just over a quarter of an hour left to play. Five minutes later, San Diego would take its first lead of the match, scoring another try to lead Glendale by a score of 18-15.

Glendale would respond however, as team captain Sarah Chobot would link a pass to vice-captain Christen Suda to regain the lead at 20-18 with just seven minutes remaining.

“Before the game, we stressed being mentally tough, and how when you play a great team like the Surfers, you are going to have peaks and valleys,” said Chobot. “We just needed to weather the storm take our punches and then give them right back. It was just a great game tight both half’s, scores came from multiple attack platforms. We got down but we turned to each other came together and answered back in about a min.”

The Merlins would close out strong on both sides of the ball with Hale finding the try zone for the second time in the match and closing out the 27-18 win and Hale earning Player of the Match honors.

Hale was huge for us again, she really has come into her own and has been very good all year,” Chobot said of the effort. “Our bench was huge. Every one of those guys came on and made an impact. Hannah [Stolba] and Jenny [Lui] were tremendous in managing the game. Julie [Tordonato] had a great game getting us go forward ball and great attacking lines from 12-meter.”

With the latest win over San Diego, Glendale’s record moves to 6-0-1 on the season. The Glendale Merlins WPL side will now prep for a road trip to face Oregon Sports Union (ORSU) on Nov. 4th (1:30 p.m.)

“We have four practices really left to tune up some of those problem areas before we head to nationals,” said Chobot. “All and all really excited where we are right now.”

For the Glendale Men, the hope was to match the fast-paced offensive intensity of New York Old Blue while playing on the road. The two sides already experienced offensive fireworks in their previous meeting; a 76-35 Merlins win at Infinity Park.

In Saturday’s meeting, it was more of the same, with both teams scoring tries in bunches while Glendale built up a 38-23 by halftime.

“We started poorly allowing Old Blue to get into a 14-point lead after an interception try and a turn over from us,” explained Merlins head coach David Williams. “But settled into our game shape and physicality and scored a number of tries in the first half.”

The game switched to defense in the second half, however as Glendale and New York would both score just two tries apiece in the final 40 minutes of action.

“Second half was scrappy with unforced errors allowing Old Blue to gain territorial advantage, making us defend for large parts of the half,” added Williams.

With the Merlins season concluded, the Glendale men have the inaugural Glendale Raptors professional season to look forward to.

Continued Williams, “We got the win and undefeated for the fall season and showed some great promise and confidence going into the Major League Rugby season.”

Just before the WPL match at Infinity Park, the Glendale Merlins U20 Men took on University of Colorado Rugby’s B-side, which resulted in an emphatic 116-3 victory for the Merlins. The U20 Men will finish their season with a re-match against the University of New Mexico (B-side) on November 4th at 12pm on the Infinity Park Turf Pitch. During the first meeting, the Merlins U20 men dispatched the Lobos 78-8.

Photos by Seth McConnell