Warriors drop to 4-5 with loss to SaberCats

HERRIMAN — Moral victories are tough to take at this stage of the Major League Rugby season, and Utah Warriors coach certainly wasn’t accepting any after his team finished out on the losing end of a tough 29-24 loss to the Houston Sabercats on Saturday.

Utah outplayed the Sabercats, who entered the match with MLR’s best mark of seven wins against just a single loss, for much of the match, but a positive final result proved elusive.

“We were confident that we could beat these guys,” Cooper said. “...Houston is a good side, there’s no question about that, but there’s no reason we couldn’t have won the game today…We didn’t come to compete against a good side, we came in to beat a good side.”

There were several critical moments Utah was unable to capitalize on, but perhaps the most notable came in the game’s 61st minute.

With the home crowd proving loud and raucous after Utah pulled to within 22-17 after a try from Matt Jensen, Houston snatched the momentum right back, intercepting an ill-timed off-load off of a ruck situation for a long, uncontested run-out and subsequent try. Throw in the fact that Houston scored the try to go up 29-17 down two players who were sitting out with yellow cards, and the error gets compounded considerably.

“We made too many mistakes at crucial teams…way too many penalties and errors,” Cooper said.

Despite the palpable deflation that came with what proved to be Houston’s final try of the evening, Utah fought back strong. The game’s final 19 minutes saw Utah maintain good possession and then cut the lead to 29-24 off of a try from Phil Bradford the 76th minute.

But that’s as close as Utah would come, after a failed line-out in the final minute ended it’s final possession and gave Houston the win.

While Cooper was again proud of how his team competed, he emphasized the need to couple that elevated competition with positive results.

“It was again one of those games where we put ourselves under pressure, and then had to fight back,” Cooper said. “So we did fight back, which was great, but we shouldn’t put ourselves under that pressure. So (my mind) just goes back to the errors and the penalties, which proved costly.”

What also proved costly was Utah’s inability to score a single try during the game’s first 20 minutes despite dominating possession. At four different stages Utah entered inside the five meter line, only to come up just short of the try line due to untimely penalties and errors, along with Houston’s defense simply proving tough to get through.

“It would have been a big thing for us if we could have scored those points,” Cooper said. “We didn’t take advantage of the wind we had in that first half, and it came down to too many penalties and mistakes (made) at crucial times.”

Houston grabbed some momentum during the final 20 minutes of the first half, scoring a penalty kick in the 27th minute and then a try in the 32nd, shortly after Warriors forward Nic Souchon was issued a yellow card.

Joel Hodgson made sure Utah didn’t go into the half scoreless, however, converting on a penalty kick in the 39th minute to cut Houston’s lead to 10-3 at the break.

The Sabercats came out very strong in the second half, scoring tries in the 43rd and 47th minutes to extend the lead to 22-3 before Utah fought back strong, only to again lose out by another slim margin.

With the loss Utah drops to 4-5 on the season and will next travel to take on Miami a week from Saturday. Houston improves to 8-1 with the win.


"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."