Rush End Season on the Highest of Notes

July 10th, 2018
By Louis Zatzman

The Toronto Rush were never going to take it easy going into the final regular season game of 2018. Their margin of victory during the 26-13 win over the Ottawa Outlaws represented the largest of the season, despite missing a litany of star players and a coach. While Sachin Raina couldn’t make the trip to Ottawa, players Adrian Yearwood and Jaret Meron acted as proxies. Their coaching careers debuted to great success. 

The Rush opened the contest, as they have in a mind-boggling 8 of 14 games this season, by taking a 2-0 lead. The Rush unfortunately started on offence, which means they couldn’t succeed in their usual manner of collecting two break goals with defensive lines. However, their offence started with a hold, despite a variety of turnovers. The following defence was much cleaner, requiring only one pass from Jacky Hau to Iain MacKenzie after an Ottawa misthrow to score the goal.

Toronto nearly scored a third consecutive point with its following D-Line, which featured three rookies in Dan LaFrance, Ben Pries, and Phil, but a series of throwing errors allowed Ottawa to retake possession of the disc multiple times on the point and finally convert its first goal.

In general, swirling winds wreaked havoc on both teams’ performance. Throwers on both sides were affected, as Toronto and Ottawa combined for 49 throwaways but only 26 blocks; most errors were unforced. Toronto’s experience proved to be vital in its victory.

“The wind was a little swirly, which was causing a little chaos,” said Raina. “That improved our chances, given just how veteran of a group we have. Not necessarily that we have the 20 best throwers in the country, but our guys have been in that situation before, they know how to handle it.”

Toronto’s offence scored another sloppy hold to stretch their lead to 3-1, and Jeremy Norden tallied a block on the following point to push Toronto ahead by another. After Ottawa scored another, despite Toronto having chances of their own, the Rush scored the game’s first point without a turnover on the 7th point. Youngsters Hugh Knapp and Nate Hirst played tic-tac-toe on a short point before Knapp found Nick Dacquisto for a quick goal. Toronto ends 49 percent of its points with a score, and 51 percent with a turnover, so it was incredibly revealing that it took 7 points before Toronto was able to finally score one cleanly. The winds took their toll.

The second quarter began with yet more Toronto domination, as an Ottawa turnover allowed Justin Foord to find Iain MacKenzie for a goal. Foord is a newcomer to the Rush in 2018, recently added for the playoff run. In only his second game with the team, he already showed how his incredible athleticism could bend the game in Toronto’s favour. Foord finished with 3 assists, 2 goals, and 4 blocks on the day, almost all compiled from the defensive side. 

Another break followed to put Toronto up 7-2, before Ottawa finally settled in and notched two clean offensive holds, their firsts of the day. The Rush’s lines continued shifting throughout the day for several reasons. Most importantly, the Rush were on the second day of a back-to-back and were guaranteed the top spot in their division; they didn’t want to overly tax any players and increase the chances of injury. The result was that Iain MacKenzie led the team with only 20 points played, and no one who dressed had fewer than 13. 

The game also represented a chance to try new things and put players in new positions, stretching responsibilities to see what could work. Every one of the 19 players who dressed finished with at least one scoring stat, a goal or an assist. The Rush’s solid play as a unit allowed them to stretch their lead to 12-6 heading into the second half, as both teams continued to pile on turnovers.

The second half began in the same way, as Carroll threw the disc away, before Ottawa did the same. Hirst dropped a pass from Carroll, and then Jonathan Edwards recorded a block and finished the bookends as Carroll led him into the endzone; the sloppy play was a worthwhile microcosm of the entire game itself. 

Another benefit from Justin Foord is his incredible pulling ability. Pinning Ottawa deep, Derek Alexander received the centering pass but then had no good options and threw the disc away. MacKenzie picked up, and the Rush quickly swung the disc near Ottawa’s endzone, before Foord punched it in to Lindquist to push Toronto ahead 14-6. Staying on, Foord pulled again, and the Rush actually had a chance after an Outlaws drop, but MacKenzie misplaced his throw. Ottawa methodically moved the disc down the field before Nick Boucher caught the Outlaws goal. 

Toronto’s offence continued the trend of a throwaway before reclaiming the disc – this time on an impressive block from Ben Oort – and punching in the goal. Oort tossed the disc back to Yearwood before he broke towards the endzone and caught the bookends. 

Ottawa’s offence held, despite throwing a turnover, and then Toronto mimicked them, doing the same as Carroll and MacKenzie recorded blocks for the offence. Toronto’s defence finally converted on an Outlaws drop on their first pass, as Anatoly Vasilyev threw an easy pass to Dan LaFrance to put Toronto ahead 17-8. The final point of the third quarter comprised half the quarter, saw four turnovers, and finished as the buzzer ended without a score for either side.

The poor play of the game meant that the Rush offence actually turned the disc over on 9 separate possessions. One of those ended in an Outlaws break, and 8 ended in Rush scores despite the earlier turnover. Toronto was at least pleased with the defence played by the offensive lines. The Rush defence, on the other hand, scored 13 breaks in the route. 

The final quarter actually cleaned up dramatically, at least for Toronto. Though Ottawa began the game with two clean offensive holds, they couldn’t continue their momentum. Toronto used a 4-0 run to pull ahead 22-10, and Ottawa had seemingly waived the white flag. Their defensive pressure was far slacker as the game ended, as Toronto only threw four turnovers in the entire quarter. 

Toronto ended their regular season with an incredible push, assuring themselves of the AUDL’s top seed – with a better point differential than Dallas, despite the two teams sporting identical 13-1 records – if they are able to reach Championship Weekend in Madison. Toronto’s preparatory season has finally ended. In three weeks, Toronto will face the winner of the first divisional playoff game, which will take place between D.C and New York, or D.C and Montreal if New York manages to lose their final two games. After an incredible season, and this 26-13 shellacking of their provincial rivals, Toronto will be ready no matter whom they face.