When the final whistle was blown in the semifinal match between the top-seeded Glendale Raptors and the fourth-seeded Utah Warriors at Infinity Park last Saturday, the Raptors took their final, crucial step towards their ultimate goal: a Major League Rugby Championship.
“It’s good that we set those goals, those lofty goals at the start of the season,” said head coach David Williams. “I think we just focused on what we wanted to get done and we just trusted our players and our systems. Obviously we got the success that we wanted, and what we deserved I think, and now we’re in the final with Seattle.”
The Raptors cruised through the inaugural MLR season one game shy of an undefeated season. Their only loss came at the hands of the San Diego Legion in the regular-season finale. The following week, the Raptors used that loss as fuel in their 34-21 victory over the Warriors.
The Raptors will face the Seattle Seawolves in the first MLR title fight Saturday in San Diego. Seattle and defeated San Diego in the other semifinal game, using a massive second-half push to take down the Legion by a final score of 38-24.
It’s a match-up that prop Luke White is looking forward to.
“Seattle has been my favorite matchup all year,” White said before a Tuesday training session. “We’re two fairly similar teams, we have similar tactics and it’s going to be a tough, physical game right from the start.”
The two sides have faced each other twice in the regular season with Glendale winning both times, 19-15 and 33-11.
Will the third time be the charm for the Seawolves or will the Raptors run the table one final time?
“There’s no external expectations on us. We haven’t said anything about that,” said Williams. “It’s all the pressure we put on ourselves to perform the best we can perform.”
The idea of becoming the first champion in MLR history is something back row Connor Cook has been dreaming about since the first day of the season.
“I think it would mean the world to us, you know. We’ve had our sights set on it for the entire season,” said Cook. “I can’t even describe the feeling until it happens but I’m sure it would be massive for all of us.”