New Location Same Result - Rush beat Royal in Quebec City

June 5, 2018
By Louis Zatzman

The Royal excursion to Quebec City was a success in every way imaginable for Montreal except one: the Toronto Rush won again, this time 24-20. They’re now 8-0 on the season. The official attendance count was 1570 people, who could barely fit into the stands. The Royal proved yet again that their fan base is unsurpassed in loyalty and passion around the league, as even Rush players raved about the crowd after the game.

The Rush pulled out into an early lead and never looked back, winning by the same four points by which they led after one quarter. Toronto was led by its defense, who amassed 16 blocks and 10 break goals on the night. Jason Huynh led the team in assists, with five, while playing exclusively on the D-Line. Fellow defenders Iain MacKenzie and JJ Edwards led the team in goals, with five and four respectively. 

“I think, over the past couple games, our O- was really carrying our D-Line. It was nice to give back in that aspect,” said Edwards.

“Sure, JJ and I were scoring goals, but at least for me, [Huynh] made a lot of that happen. He's something. He threw me open quite often,” raved MacKenzie.

Toronto set the tone for the game on the first point, as Montreal’s Quentin Bonnaud fumbled a pass from Steven Bonneau, and Jaret Meron collected a block on the loose disc. Isaiah Masek-Kelly, spearheading the Rush’s defence instead of playing his usual minutes with the O-Line, went every other with the disc before throwing it away. More defensive pressure reclaimed possession only a moment later, and Huynh punched in the goal to Jacky Hau for the break goal. 

“We knew [Bonnaud] is their primary look on offence,” explained MacKenzie. “So, going in, we just wanted to stop him from making the big plays. Force him under. You know, maybe he'd be catching the frisbee a lot, but he wouldn't be getting it in the endzone as much.” 

Coach Sachin Raina threw an entirely new defensive line onto the field, with Masek-Kelly as the lone holdover, and they promptly claimed a 2-0 lead. After another Bonnaud turnover, Masek-Kelly atoned for his early mistake, throwing the assist to Edwards. The second D-Line for the Rush was incredibly successful throughout the game in brining energy and stringing consecutive breaks together.

“What we've been really good at capitalizing on this year is sending out a completely fresh D-Line,” explained Edwards. “We feed off the energy of the other defensive players, and we just build on that. Our team is so deep that we can just continuously roll out double breaks like that, which is how we started quite a few games.”

Though Montreal cleanly held on their third opportunity, the Rush offence converted with a 20-second pull play that saw Ben Oort flashing deep, followed by tight-space catches from Ben Burelle and Andrew Carroll for the goal. 

A pair of offensive holds followed, though marred by turnovers from both squads. Toronto again struck from the defensive side, as Meron added another block, this time on a Kevin Quinlan throw. Masek-Kelly fired an assist to defensive wizard Bretton Tan, which pushed the Rush lead to 5-2. On the following point, Iain MacKenzie recorded bookends – blocking a pass before receiving a goal thrown from Jeff Lindquist – to stretch the lead to 6-2. 

With barely half the quarter elapsed, the Rush already held a commanding lead. It would only grow, as the Rush opened the second quarter with another clean hold. The defence added a few more break goals early in the quarter to push the lead to 11-4.

That would be the high point of the game, as Montreal staged a miniature comeback. Montreal held for a goal, and then they claimed their first break goal of the day. Thomson McKnight recorded a rare throwaway, which allowed Montreal to capitalize. The next point saw another break as a group of defensive players couldn’t convert. The score was quickly cut to 11-7 for Toronto, and the raucous Quebec City crowd found itself engaged in the game. Rush players even reported not being able to hear matchups or playcalls on the line in between points. A trio of clean holds, followed by a sky from Cam Harris over the pile as the clock expired, brought the score to 13-8 going into the half. 

Montreal again found some momentum to begin the third quarter. Foreign imports Cam Burden, Bonnaud, and Kevin Quinlan dominated a short first offensive point, and the Royal defence followed with two consecutive break points. Simon Charette notched a block – one of his team-high 3 on the day – before Esteban Ceballos caught a goal. After a drop from the Rush on the next offensive point, again, with a defensive line sent out to hold, the score was a much closer 13-11. 

The Rush offence responded with a hold in a matter of seconds. Of course it was a huck to Andrew Carroll. Perhaps energized, the starting D-Line scored a point of their own, as Zlatic intercepted a Cam Burden throw. Huynh threw yet another goal to Iain MacKenzie for the break. 

The starting Rush offence ran into some trouble for the rest of the third quarter. Adrian Yearwood, Connor Armstrong, and McKnight each threw a turnover in the span of a few minutes, as Montreal’s athleticism imprinted itself onto Toronto’s usually-smooth offence. Toronto’s offensive points, which usually last 20 seconds or fewer, began stretching long, occasionally into 3 or 4 minutes. Montreal pulled within one point at 16-15 and then again at 19-18 at the start of the fourth quarter. The game bore eerily similarity to Toronto’s last bout against Montreal, during which a late Toronto collapsed allowed Montreal back into the game. 

However, like last time in Montreal, Toronto maintained its composure and steadied the listing ship. Coach Raina trusted a group of defensive players who had already held an offensive point, populated by Masek-Kelly, Huynh, Tan, Jeremy Norden, Edwards, Lindquist, and rookie Drew Wilson. They fought their way to a hold to push the lead to 20-18.

For the record, that group of players have only ever played two points together, both in this game. Edwards agreed it was strange, the group upon which Raina settled to play a key offensive point, admitting that “it's a very small chance that we've all played on a line together [in practice] before.”

Regardless, Edwards was adamant that any Rush group can achieve success, with or without direct experience together: “As a team, we practice all the same systems, so it's not too challenging. If you're playing hard and playing well, and everyone knows the systems, it's not as big of a deal if you haven't played with that specific line or not. That's a good thing about keeping some consistent systems is you can interchange players, and it works out well.”

Masek-Kelly and Norden stayed on the line, joined by a new group of defenders. They broke Montreal to push the lead to 21-18. Iain MacKenzie caught the goal from Masek-Kelly, and he described the point as unflashy yet significant. 

“[Jeremy] threw it deep to [Masek-Kelly], and I just followed up the play. I caught my guy unawares,” said MacKenzie. 

He caught yet another goal on the next point, this time thrown on a break throw from Huynh after a quick turnover from the Royal near their own endzone. The Rush lead was back to four points, where it would stay after a few offensive holds from both teams. 

The Rush won the game with solid, if unspectacular, play. 

“It wasn't really a game with a lot of massive plays for us,” explained Edwards. “I think we did a lot of little things right throughout the game, and that turned out to be a lot of working the disc up [and] punching it in. There weren't a lot of highlight-worthy plays from our side. We did a lot of what's called boring ultimate, but that's considered good ultimate.”

Whenever the Royal closed the gap, the Rush were able to keep pushing. They never trailed in the game, and they were never tied after 0-0. Other than a picture-perfect Norden flick that traveled the full distance of the field to Edwards, the most memorable aspect of the game for the Rush was Jason Huynh stepping into a key leadership role on the field. 

“[He’s been] huge,” said Edwards. “Massive. I think he's really upped his game. For the last year, and before, he'd show those - no pun intended - sparkles of greatness, but he was always kind of timid or lacked the ability to take over, maybe just being young, or not confident with all the other great players out there. But this year in his elevated role, he's really stepped up in his ability to throw and go, do that every-other.”

With superstars not only at every position on the offence, but also leading the defence, it’s no wonder that the undefeated season for the Rush continues.