Despite a rocky inaugural season competing in Super Rugby Americas, the American Raptors are looking to close the season on a positive note.
Ending the season with a win on the road against Cobras Brasil XV would not only do wonders for the Raptors (1-10) spirits as they head into the offseason, but it would also mean that they wouldn’t finish the season in last place on the Super Rugby Americas table.
Despite having a better record than the Raptors, Cobras Brasil (2-9) and the Raptors both have 11 points in the table. Sunday morning’s winner will avoid finishing the season in the cellar.
The Raptors have shown flashes of greatness throughout the season, but the wins have been sparce. Their lone win came in a 26-22 contest against Selknam in Round 9, but the Raptors’ play on the pitch has improved weekly over the course of the season.
One of the first signs of the progress the Raptors have made throughout the season came in the first meeting between the Raptors and Cobras Brasil at Infinity Park back in Round 7. The Raptors ultimately lost that match 43-40, but it marked the first time that their offensive really hit its stride. Cobras took a 26-12 lead into the half, but the Raptors won the second half 28-17 – the first time the Raptors had won a half at that point in the season – putting their potential on full display.
If the Raptors were to exact some revenge and defeat Cobras Brasil on Sunday morning, it will likely boil down to two aspects of the match: their ability to avoid cards and how they close the first half and begin the second.
Over the course of the season those two factors have been the difference between wins and losses for the Raptors. The Raptors have been administered 22 total cards – 21 yellows and one red – which leads the competition. The competition is tough enough to win matches in at full strength, and it becomes that much tougher to win when you’re playing a man down.
Cobras Brasil has had their fair share with cards as well. They’ve received 15 yellow cards and three red cards, which is the most red cards of any team in the competition.
The Raptors last three losses have arguably been decided in the waning minutes of the first half and the opening 20 minutes of the second half. In each of the last three losses, the Raptors have given up a try just before the halftime whistle and have been outscored in the opening 20 minutes of the second. In each of the losses, the Raptors have found their footing and mustered up a few tries as the match winds down, but the holes are often too deep to dig themselves out of.
If the Raptors can avoid cards and win the 30 minutes that sandwich the halftime break, they’ll give themselves a good chance to win the match.
Another key to victory for the Raptors will be keeping a lid on some of Cobras Brasil’s top performers. Hooker Endy Willian is fourth on the Super Rugby Americas try leaderboard with five, and two of those tries came against the Raptors in Round 7. Both Daytwon Sheridan and Watson Filikitonga lead the Raptors in try-scoring with four apiece.
Cobras Brasil fullback Lucas Tranquez also has the ability to fill up the scoresheet. Entering the final match of the season, Tranquez is fourth in the league with 78 points off of one try, nine penalty goals, and 23 conversions. Raptors’ fly-half Lucas Gonzalez is hot on his heels with 70 points off 14 penalty goals and 14 conversions.
The Raptors and Cobras Brasil will face off at 9 AM on Sunday, May 28. The match will be broadcast on ESPN+.