TORONTO — Despite a lengthy injured list, the Toronto Arrows have won three of their last four and look to extend that run Saturday when NOLA Gold visits.

The good news for the Arrows (5-4-0) is the number of unavailable players is 12 this week, down from 14 the week before with Argentine back-rower Tomy de la Vega and New Zealand-born centre Ueta Tufuga restored to health. Tufuga starts while de la Vega is on the bench.

Still missing are backs Chris Bell, Cole Brown, Ross Braude, Andrew Ferguson, Brandan Ferguson, Matt Hood, Kobe Faust, Conor McCann, Gaston Mieres and Dennon Robinson-Bartlett and forwards Mason Flesch and Marcello Wainwright.

The injury bug has been so bad that, with scrum halves Bell, Brown, Braude and Andrew Ferguson all out, the club had to sign Canadians Riley Di Nardo and Gord McRorie before last week's 32-27 win over Old Glory DC to have someone available to play No. 9.

"Honestly I don't think there's any rhyme or reason to it," veteran forward Kyle Baillie, who was sidelined himself for a few weeks due to shoulder issues, said of the slew of injuries. "We definitely got plagued by it hard this year … An absurd amount really in the course of the season, especially the first half. But the guys are on the mend."

It's a measure of the Arrows depth that they can still field 13 internationals (12 Canadian and one Argentine) in their match-day 23 Saturday.

Considering the injuries, where Toronto is in the Major League Rugby standings is more than decent. Toronto sits fourth in the Eastern Conference — five points behind Rugby New York. With five points available for a bonus win, that gap is closable.

And having played seven of their first nine games away from home, the Arrows get to play five of their remaining seven at York Lions Stadium.

The top team in each of the two conferences gets a first-round playoff bye with the No. 2 and 3 seeds meeting to determine who advances to the conference finals to meet them.

"I'm not going to say the hard work's over. We still have the back half of our season here, which we've still got to get some wins together to be hunting for that playoff spot," said Baillie. "But I think all things considered, injuries and having those away games, we've set ourselves up pretty good here."

The Arrows go into weekend play with a seven-point bulge over fifth-place NOLA Gold (3-6-0). The New Orleans team is coming off a 34-17 loss to visiting Rugby ATL.

Toronto won 24-23 when the two teams met Feb. 19 in Louisiana. While NOLA won the four other meetings, all five games between the two have been decided by eight points or fewer

For Baillie, Saturday's contest is a reunion with the team he used to captain. The 31-year-old lock/back-rower from Summerside, P.E.I., spent the better part of three years with the New Orleans team.

"It's always good to see those guys," he said with a chuckle.

He has good memories of his time in the Big Easy.

"The Louisiana heat was nice. The people were good, the food was fantastic. I've got nothing bad to say about New Orleans," he said.

Baillie's former roommate at NOLA, Canadian hooker Eric Howard, is set to start for the visitors on Saturday.

Toronto acquired the six-foot-four 240-pound Baillie from NOLA in October in exchange for a second-round draft pick.

Baillie, who signed with the New Orleans team in October 2018, now makes his off-season home in Halifax where his partner is a physiotherapist. While in the U.S., he did not see her for long stretches due to the pandemic but now can jump on a plane on a bye week to renew acquaintances.

Toronto Arrows roster

Cole Keith, Andrew Quattrin, Isaac Salmon, Mike Sheppard (capt.), Paul Ciulini, Kyle Baillie, Lucas Rumball, Ronan Foley, Riley Di Nardo, Sam Malcolm, Mitch Richardson, Ueta Tufuga, Spencer Jones, John Sheridan, Mitch Voralek.


Jack McRogers, Lolani Faleiva, Tyler Rowland, Tomas de la Vega, Siaki Vikilani, Gord McRorie, Guiseppe du Toit, Will Kelly.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2022