Loss in New England knocks Warriors from playoff contention

BOSTON — The Utah Warriors’ postseason hopes were crushed on Sunday with a 36-27 loss to the New England Free Jacks.

The Warriors started off strong in what proved to be a highly competitive and physical match, but ultimately didn’t have enough to hold off Major League Rugby’s defending champions for their sixth straight loss.

“We were here to win the game and we’re really disappointed we didn’t,” said Warriors coach Greg Cooper. “We missed some opportunities and gave them stuff that we shouldn’t have. It was a very committed performance because it’s desperation for us, but we were done in by some missed execution…So we just have to take it on the chin and get ready for the next two games.”

Utah has taken it on the chin with regards to injuries throughout the season, and came into Sunday’s match demanding a lot of its players. Cooper mentioned players such as Paul Lasike and Caleb Makene both being tasked with playing a full 80 minutes, despite sitting out the prior week due to injury, along with several others.

“You can’t fault the boys in terms of the effort put forth today,” Cooper said. “It’s been an incredibly demanding season…We weren’t at full strength, but we certainly competed with a lot of character.”

Utah started off strong, with Michael Manson dotting the ball down in the try zone in the game’s 10th minute to follow up on a successful penalty kick from Joel Hodgson in the second minute for an early 10-3 lead. But New England kept responding to everything Utah set forth, scoring a try of its own in the 19th minute to square things at 10-10.

Makene scored a try in the 26th minute off a brilliant off-load from Hodgson, only to be answered by the Free Jacks four minutes later to tie things at 17-17 just before the break.

New England then set the pace in the second half, being granted a man advantage just before the close of the first half due to a yellow card issued to Frank Lochore, scoring a try in the 44th minute for a 22-17 lead after a missed conversion kick.

Hodgson then cut the lead to 22-20 after a successful penalty kick in the 52nd minute before New England extended the lead to 29-20 after a successful try scored in the 61st minute.

But the Warriors wouldn’t go away, and John Durpree responded shortly after the water break to cut the lead to 29-27.

“We carried really strongly, and some of the forwards that came on in the second half carried really strongly,” Cooper said of Dupree’s try along with the effort of his team, in general. “There were moments where we could have controlled it a bit better, but it didn’t happen.”

The final try of the game was scored by the Free Jacks in the 70th minute as an otherwise brilliant defensive stand by the Warriors finally faltered to all but put the game on ice. Sure, Utah fought until the end, and did dominate possession for the game’s final 10 minutes, but ultimately came up short.

“There were moments where we could have won the game, and the score certainly doesn’t reflect how that game unfolded,” Cooper said. “Things didn’t go our way, and we certainly missed our opportunities. But I can only praise the commitment of the boys in trying circumstances on the road against a great rugby side.”

With the loss Utah falls to 4-10 on the season and is mathematically eliminated from postseason play while New England improves to 10-4 with the win. The Warriors will return home to take on the Dallas Jackals this coming Saturday.


"I was able to bring my family to three games. It was a lot of fun for all the kids, my wife, and myself. The atmosphere is very family-friendly for even my youngest kids. I had 4 children attend the pregame Jr. Warriors clinics on 2 separate occasions; they had a lot of fun with those experiences and it was a very positive and encouraging environment."