Langford welcomes Canada’s only pro rugby team to Starlight Stadium – Vancouver Island Free Daily

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Major League Rugby landed in Langford on Friday night as the Toronto Arrows lost to the LA Giltinis in the first-ever MLR game to be played on British soil.

Despite being more than 4,000 kilometers from its usual haunts, Toronto had the support of a home crowd, watched by thousands of fans from the stands at Starlight Stadium. Some of the players on the field have played with the national team on the island, making the event feel like a homecoming. The same goes for Toronto Arrows forward James O’Neill, who played for four years at the University of Victoria and said it was exciting to see fans come out and support Canada’s only professional rugby side.

“It’s like we have the best home fans in the whole league because we’ve got a whole country behind us,” he said. “It’s amazing to see and humbling, and when I first started playing there was nothing like it. Hopefully it keeps building.”

Toronto started well, taking a 10-0 lead after team captain Mike Sheppard knocked down an LA kick and dived under the post, with kicker Spencer Jones adding a conversion and penalty.

The team continued strongly, winning 16-12 at halftime despite two LA tries. The Giltinis scored a third try in the 48th minute to take the lead for the first time, making it a one-point play at 16-17. Toronto had a period of sustained pressure that resulted in a yellow card for LA, but they couldn’t make it count as the American team rebounded and ran away with the game as they scored two more tries to win the game 31-16 .

Several Langford residents performed on the field, Mayor Stew Young presented the ball before kick-off and local singer Jaimey Hamilton sang the national anthems.

“I was pretty nervous because there was a big crowd out there,” Hamilton said. “The gigs have halved, but I was still able to perform in restaurants. I hope people liked (my performance) and this is the first rugby game I’ve been to so I’m excited.”

Fans Matt Michael and Aaron Clark watch the international rugby sevens tournament in Vancouver every year but said it’s exciting to see professional rugby on the island.

“It’s super nice to have a professional game come here to Langford. Home, Canada, damn yeah, mate,” Michael said.

The Toronto Arrows are now 2-0 into the season after losing their opener to Seattle last week. They’re playing New Orleans gold in their next game, down in Louisiana.


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