Raptors Overcome Early Deficit to Stun Yacare in Round 6

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American Raptors Rugby Player reaching for ball during a tackle near the sideline.

On a cold, rainy day at Infinity Park the red-hot American Raptors stunned second-place Yacare XV to pick up their second-straight victory of the 2024 Super Rugby Americas season.

The Raptors (2-3) overcame a 26-14 halftime deficit to outduel Yacare (3-3) to a 35-33 victory in a 68-point shootout that didn’t lack action. When the final whistle blew, Sunday’s match consisted of 10 tries, five yellow cards, and two weather delays that delayed the Round 6 contest by over an hour during the halftime break.

The victory ended Yacare’s two-match win streak and marked the first-ever win streak for the Raptors since joining Super Rugby Americas.

“It’s amazing,” Watson Filikitonga said of the win streak. “We didn’t have the season that we wanted last year and we started off slow again this season, but we are shifting momentum. The boys are together, and I just feel like we have to carry on this momentum into the next match.”

The Raptors got the scoring started with a beauty of a try early on in the match. Fly-half Rufus McLean put a kick over the top of the Yacare defense, and Mo Vainikolo raced down to grab the ball before offloading to outside center Thomas Morani who stretched over the line for the score. Fullback Cian Barry nailed the conversion to give the Raptors an early 7-0 lead.

It took a few minutes, but Yacare’s offense woke up. The highest-scoring offense in the league rattled off three unanswered tries between the 12th and 26th minute of the match. Scrumhalf Juan Cruz Strada kicked off the scoring for Yacare with a try to knot the match at seven points apiece following Joaquin Lamas’ conversion.

Yacare had to work hard for their second try of the match. The Raptors played some spirited defense before Yacare spun the ball out wide to wing Arturo Lopez who broke the tie and put the Raptors in a seven-point hole.

The visitors followed that score up with another try just five minutes later from Juan González – their other wing – down the opposite touchline. Lamas couldn’t make the tough conversion, but Yacare extended their lead to 19-7 in the 26th minute.

Playing down two men, the Raptors stopped the bleeding with a try of their own when No. 8 Diego Magno scooped the ball out of a ruck, spotted a gap and darted up the middle for their second try of the match. Barry’s conversion cut Yacare’s lead to five, but the visitors for Paraguay weren’t done scoring. Yacare flanker Felipe Puertas punched in their fourth try of the match to push the lead to 26-14 before the hour-plus halftime break.

When the action resumed, it was the Raptors that struck first with a bruising Watson Filikitonga run through the heart of the Yacare defense for the Raptors’ third try of the match. Cian Barry converted the try to cut the lead to five in the 43rd minute.

“During halftime, Stagg just told me to use footwork last minute instead of trying to do it so early and attack it as straight as I can, go forward, and keep pumping my legs,” Filikitonga said of the try. “We got a nice little try off of that.”

As they’d done throughout the match, Yacare matched the Raptors’ try with a try of their own when hooker Axel Zapata took an offload from fullback and former Raptor Ramiro Moyano in for their fifth try of the match to extend the lead back to five points.

The Raptors cut into the lead once again with a Jacob Hidalgo try – his third of the season – on an insert off their lineout in Yacare territory. Barry’s conversion helped make it 33-28 with just under 30 minutes to play.

After 20 minutes of back-and-forth rugby, the Raptors broke free using a Devereaux Ferris kick over the top of the Yacare defense that Mclean scooped up and charged towards the try-line. Tommy Clark finished the job with a pick-and-go try to tie the match at 33 points. Barry kicked his fifth conversion to give the Raptors a narrow 35-33 lead with just four minutes to play. The Raptors hung on for the win.

“The biggest thing is that we had a good week of training and we tried to carry the momentum from last week,” Filikitonga said. “The boys just put on today.”

The Raptors will look to extend their win streak to three games following a league-wide Easter break. They will return to action at Infinity Park on April 7 against Selknam. Kickoff is at 3 PM and gates for the match will open at 2:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased here. Fans who can’t make it to Infinity Park can watch the match live on ESPN+.

American Raptors

Tries
Thomas Morani, Diego Magno, Watson Filikitonga, Jacob Hidalgo, Tommy Clark

Conversions
Cian Barry (5/5)

Penalty Goals
Francisco Quinn (0/1)

Cobras Brasil

Tries
Juan Cruz Strada, Arturo Lopez, Juan González, Felipe Puertas, Axel Zapata

Conversions
Joaquin Lamas (4/5)

Penalty Goals
Joaquin Lamas (0/1)

Snaps from Round 9️⃣ presented by @co_school_healing_arts 
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Halftime from Infinity Park. 
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