Utah Warriors Fall to New England Free Jacks, 21-22
Weymouth, Massachusetts — The Warriors fell to the New England Free Jacks, 21-22, in New England’s first Major League Rugby (MLR) match in their home stadium. The Free Jacks joined the MLR for the 2020 season. Due to the pandemic, the season was canceled, making the Warriors their first opponent at home.
“Today was a tough match, and New England deserves a lot of credit for how they defended us. The guys fought hard to get us a point and come within striking distance in the final few minutes,” said Shawn Pittman, interim head coach. “We have a big match next week against a very strong Seattle side, and we’ll take the learning from this match and continue to grow through the season. I’ll take the loss on the chin and work to prepare the squad better for next week.”
The beginning of the first half consisted of more than 20 minutes of back-and-forth possession amongst both teams. The Warriors dominated in the scrums and in their lineouts, however, they were unable to convert their momentum into a try.
Warriors eight-man, Jurie Van Vuuren received a yellow card in the 24th minute for making a tackle from the side in the ruck. With a penalty kick awarded to New England, the Free Jacks put the first points of the match on the board, 0-3.
After Josh Whippy executed a pop kick to himself, he had a break-away run in the 30th minute to the Free Jack’s 22. With a pass to Bailey Wilson, who passed it back to Whippy just before being tackled by his older brother and Free Jacks player Mitch Wilson, Whippy punched the ball into the try zone. The conversion kick was good, bringing the score to 7-3.
“Obviously very disappointing to get the loss. I think New England asked a lot of questions of us, especially around the breakdown so that’s something we’ll take into next week moving forward, and we’ll really work on that,” said Bailey Wilson, flanker, and team captain.
New England quickly answered back, scoring their first try ever in their home stadium in the 33rd minute. With an unsuccessful conversion kick, they took the lead by one point, 7-8.
After a penalty on the Warriors in the 38th minute, the Free Jacks elevated their lead to 7-11 with a successful penalty kick and closed out the first half.
Early into the second half, the Free Jacks scored their second try of the game. Their conversion was unsuccessful, bringing the score to 7-16.
The Free Jacks had two more successful penalty kicks in the 50th minute and 56th minute, elevating their lead to eleven points, 7-22.
Utah was awarded a penalty in the 57th minute and opted for a scrum instead of a penalty kick. However, their efforts to score a try were unsuccessful, and they lost possession of the ball.
After a lineout win for Utah in the 64th minute and a strong maul, the Warriors were awarded a penalty try, giving them an automatic seven points and bringing the score to 14-22.
New signee Mika Kruse had an impressive breakaway run in the 71st minute. After passing to Fraser Hurst, an attempted kick-away failed when it was kicked into a New England player, and the Free Jacks were able to gain possession of the loose ball.
With a strong passing effort by the Warriors, the ball landed in vice-captain Mikey Te’o’s hands. Te’o made a strong run and kicked the ball around the Free Jacks’ 22. After he ran his own kick down, Te’o was able to regain possession of the ball and dive into the try zone in the 81st minute. Schulte’s conversion kick was good, tightening their deficit to just one point at the whistle and bringing the final score to 21-22 in favor of New England.
“I thought it was a good away game. New England came out strong. There’s a lot of stuff to work on, but I want to applaud New England for getting the win,” said Mikey Te’o, wing/fullback. “It ended up being a close game, but we know what we need to work on, and we’re going to focus on the game against Seattle.”
The Utah Warriors will return home next weekend to face off with the Seattle Seawolves. The match at Zions Bank Stadium will begin at 7:00 p.m. MDT and will be broadcast live on KSLSports.com and by using the KSL TV App. The game will also be streamed live on the MLR’s new The Rugby Network OTT platform or the mobile apps.
Utah Warriors Gameday Roster:
- Franco van den Berg
- Sama Malolo
- Angus Maclellan
- Aston Fortuin
- Matt Jensen
- Lance Williams
- Bailey Wilson (C)
- Jurie Van Vuuren
- Fraser Hurst
- Hagen Schulte
- Josh Whippy
- Calvin Whiting
- Tyler Fisher
- Mikey Te’o (VC)
- Cliven Loubser
- Tuvere Vugakoto
- Alex Tucci
- Olive Kilifi
- James Mocke
- Thomas Tu’avao
- Danny Christensen
- Mika Kruse
- Joe Mano
- 24’ NE 3
- 30’ Whippy, Schulte 3 (UTAH)
- 33’ NE 5
- 38’ NE 3
- HALFTIME: Utah — 7 New England — 11
- 42’ NE 5
- 50’ NE 3
- 56’ NE 3
- 64’ Penalty try 7 (UTAH)
- 81’ Te’o 5, Schulte 3 (UTAH)
- FINAL SCORE: Utah — 21 New England — 22
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