The Ontario Royals gained some admirers for the style of play showcased throughout the USARL 9’s in Philadelphia last weekend. In their first rugby league outing, the Royals came up against the Echnidas from Australia in what would be remembered as one of the most entertaining games of the tournament. While the Royals got off to a slow start letting in a quick two tries to their Australian counterparts, they slowly fought their way back into the match trailing 18 – 8 at half time. After the break, the Echidnas were first to score once again and looked set to cruise to victory before the Royals put on a show of their own to get within two points of the Aussies. Despite a great comeback, time was against the Ontarions as the Echidnas held onto a 28 – 26 victory.
The second match against the Delaware Black Foxes provided the perfect opportunity for the Royals to build on their performance against the Echidnas. The Royals had to come out of the blocks faster and that they did with the first two tries of the match. Forwards Antoine Blanc, Tom Clancy, Denny McCarthy, Max Smillie, Billy Skidgmore and Simon Paige paved the way for speedsters Robin Legault and Lukas Silver to do the damage out wide. The final score ended with a 28 – 18 win to the Royals.
When the Royals faced off against the Washington DC Slayers for what would result in a rematch in the quarter finals soon after, both teams played within themselves to save their best for the play offs. In a close battle, it was the Royals that came up with the points winning 20 – 12 to finish second in their pool behind the Echidnas.
When the same two teams met in the quarter final, the friendly atmosphere was no longer apparent as both teams were desperate to move into the semi finals. Although injuries meant that the Royals were down to nine players for the do or die play off, it was their strongest performance of the day as they spread the ball through the hands with great skill to outclass their opponents. The Royals were near unstoppable scoring some scintillating tries to run away with a 24 – 8 win.
The win set up a semi final showdown with the hosts and USARL champions Philadelphia Fight. The Fight had been the most dominant team throughout the tournament and were going to take some stopping in front of a rowdy home crowd. Some staunch goal line defense from the Fight repelled the first Royals attack before the Fight returned the ball up field for what looked to be the first try of the match only to be wrongly judged as a double movement. Despite the setback, the Fight were first to score soon after with a solo effort from USA representative Casey Clark. From the resulting restart, the Royals moved the ball quickly down field for a deserving try to Tom ‘Machine’ Clancy. Both teams went close to scoring again before half time but some stellar tackling meant the teams were locked up 6 – 6 at the break. The second half action was quick to fire with a sneaky try to Philadelphia’s captain Rich Henson from dummy half on the 5th tackle of their opening set. Some heated defense exchanged before a clever kick from the Fight resulted in another four pointer to the hosts. At 18 – 6 down with time against them, veteran Jamie Lester closed the gap with a nice show and go to bring the game within striking distance at 18 – 12 with just seconds remaining. It wasn’t enough however as time ran out before the Royals could receive the ball again.
The loss resulted in a 3rd equal placing for the Ontario Royals alongside the Echidnas who lost to the Jamaican Reggae Warriors in the other semi final. The final between the Philadelphia Fight and Jamaican Reggae Warriors ended in a 6 – 6 draw due to the threat of lightning ending the game early.
Ontario Royals Squad:
Antoine Blanc (Toronto City Saints), Tom Clancy (Toronto City Saints), Jonathan Cregg (Toronto Centurions), Michael Cregg (Toronto Centurions), Robin Legault (Toronto Centurions), Jamie Lester (Toronto Centurions), Simon Paige (Toronto Centurions), Lukas Silver (Toronto Centurions), Billy Skidgmore (Toronto Centurions), Max Smillie (Toronto Centurions), Matt Wyles (Toronto Centurions), Denny McCarthy (Oakville Crusaders)
Game 1: Australian Echidnas 28 – 26 Ontario Royals
Game 2: Ontario Royals 28 – 18 Delaware Black Foxes
Game 3: Ontario Royals 20 – 12 DC Slayers
Quarter Final: Ontario Royals 24 – 8 DC Slayers
Semi Final: Philadelphia Fight 18 – 12 Ontario Royals
3rd vs 4th: Agreed to draw between Australian Echidnas and Ontario Royals.