On Heels of First Victory, American Raptors Turn Attention to First Place Peñarol

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On Heels of First Victory, American Raptors Turn Attention to First Place Peñarol
(Gaspafotos | Super Rugby Americas)

The American Raptors didn’t have much time to celebrate their first victory of the season.

After defeating Selknam (2-5) 26-22 in Round 9, the Raptors (1-7) will have their hands full in Round 10 as they welcome first-place Peñarol (7-1) to Infinity Park.

The Raptors and Peñarol locked horns back in Round 2, with Peñarol picking up a 28-19 victory to kickstart a five-match winning streak and an impressive season for the defending league champions. Peñarol has compiled an impressive +128 point differential through eight matches with their lone defeat coming in a one-point loss to Pampas in Round 7.

When the two teams faced off in Round 2, the Raptors had one of their best starts to a match  in 2023 by scoring one of their best tries of the season when inside center Aki Pulu kicked the ball into the waiting arms of wing Seimou Smith who dove into the corner to take an early 5-0 lead. Peñarol woke up after that, taking a 13-8 lead into the half and never looking back.

While taking down Peñarol is no small task, the Raptors are hoping that replicating that same quick start they used in Round 2 combined with the momentum from last week’s victory will pay dividends on Sunday afternoon. 

The Raptors have shown flashes of brilliance throughout the season but haven’t been able to string together a complete match until defeating Selknam in Round 9. In combination with tries from Daytwon Sheridan, Shawn Clark, and Ethan McVeigh, the Raptors also played strong defense and capitalized on Selknam penalties throughout the match to finish the job and land in the win column.

Starting fast will be important, but finishing strong could be the difference on Sunday afternoon. The Raptors have watched a handful of matches unravel in the second half in 2023.

“We just have to keep our energy up,” Sheridan said after the match. “I think the biggest thing for us is our energy. We have to keep our energy. Whenever we have a shortage of energy, we come up short.”

While this is the second time that the Raptors and Peñarol will face off in 2023, it will mark the third time that the Raptors have faced Peñarol all time. Peñarol defeated the Raptors 26-10 in the second round of the Challenge Cup of the Americas tournament that took place at Infinity Park in June 2022.

A win on Sunday would do wonders for the Raptors position in the table. While currently sitting in seventh place with seven table points, they could leapfrog Cobras Brasil XV who sit directly above them in sixth place depending how Round 10 shakes out around the competition.

The third meeting between the Raptors and Peñarol will take place at Infinity Park on Sunday, April 30, 2023. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 PM MT. Tickets can be purchased by visiting AmericanRaptors.com/Schedule-and-Tickets and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN+. 

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