Warriors down SaberCats on the road
HOUSTON — The Utah Warriors again proved remarkably resilient during Saturday’s 30-24 win over the Houston Sabercats.
Although Houston made a late and furious charge, the Warriors hung on despite going into the match down three starters, including Major League Rugby goal leader Joe Mano. The replacements showed off Utah’s depth and flat out determination along with plenty of heart in securing what could easily be considered the biggest win of the season so far.
“It was huge,” said Warriors coach Greg Cooper. “Houston is a very good side and we knew we had to meet their muscle with our muscle, and our forwards were superb and our scrum was outstanding, and the defense was outstanding…and then when we attacked we were dangerous.”
Indeed Utah showed the ability to strike fast against a Houston team that dominated possession throughout the first half.
Utah’s first try came in the 20th minute with Scrum Half Conner McLeod scoring the seven points following a long run out and assist from Mika Kruse, giving the Warriors a 10-7 lead.
Houston then tied it at 10-10 shortly following a yellow card penalty issued to Bailey Wilson of the Warriors in the 28th minute.
But Utah responded quickly and impressively, with Caleb Makene showing off a great deal of breakaway speed en route to a try in the 37th minute, taking back a 17-10 lead heading into the half.
It was a first half replete with timely turnovers taken by the Warriors, solid tackling and deft counter-attacking, despite being down three starters.
As far as Cooper is concerned, perhaps too much was made of Utah’s injury issues due to the ready confidence he has in all of his players.
“The beauty of this team is we never talk about being concerned about the guys coming in,” Cooper said. “There’s a lot of work and belief that goes into this team, and they’re well-prepared. So we’re more than happy bringing another player in, although you don’t want players forced out, but we have complete confidence in those we bring in.”
Players starting in place of the aforementioned Mano, along with Paul Lasike and Jamie Lane were Onehunga Havili, Tyler Fisher and Logan Tago, respectively.
Makene appeared to reaggravate his foot injury following his try, and was replaced by Cliven Loubser in the second half and picked up right where Makene left off, scoring a try of his own in the 55th minute off an assist from Whiting, pushing Utah’s lead to 27-10.
The Warriors then appeared to take complete control following a penalty kick from Joel Hodgson, pushing the lead to 30-10 before Houston came storming back.
Benefitting from Utah being issued another yellow card, this time to Saia ‘Uhila, the Sabercats made it more interesting than the Warriors would have liked during the game’s final five minutes.
Those final five minutes saw the Sabercats score two tries, and then receive possession of the ball deep in Utah’s territory, before being narrowly shoved out-of-bounds just short of the try line as time expired.
“It was nerve-wracking in that we shouldn’t have been in that position,” Cooper said. “We didn’t deserve to lose that game, at all. We were clearly the better team on the day.”
With the win, Utah improves to 5-2 on the year, while Houston drops to 5-2. The Warriors will return home on Saturday, April 15 to take on the Seattle Seawolves.
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W Nation: Ep 90 | Playoff Positioning
On this week's episode of W Nation, Jarom Jordan and Banksy recap