Warriors earn a road win at Dallas
DALLAS, Texas — The Utah Warriors’ 36-26 win over the Dallas Jackals brought with it some mostly good news, but also some same frustrations that have plagued the team for much of the season.
But winning is never a bad thing, and particularly when earning a critical bonus point off four tries scored as Utah works to earn itself a playoff spot.
As for that bonus point, it was earned in extremely quick fashion.
With just under 20 minutes gone in the first half, Warriors scrum half Connor McLeod touched down the ball in the try zone off an assist from Caleb Makene, giving his team a commanding 28-0 win.
For McLeod, it was his third try, having scored one in the seventh and ninth minutes off assists from Emerson Prior and Makene, respectively.
“We wanted to start fast, and that was pretty fast,” McLeod said. “Coaches did a great job teaching us what to focus on during the week.”
Sandwiched between McLeod’s second and third tries was Joe Mano placing the ball down in the try zone off an assist from Bailey Wilson, as Utah rolled off one of the more dominating 20 minutes you’ll see on a rugby pitch.
“That first 20 minutes saw us do exactly what we talked about and how we trained,” said Warriors coach Greg Cooper. “But then we got into the sin bin and we went off script.”
The sin bin referring to Thomas Tu’avao receiving a yellow card, forcing him out of action for 10 minutes where the Warriors had to play down one man.
Tu’avao left the game in the 22nd minute and Dallas took advantage.
The Jackals scored tries in both the 27th and 32nd minutes, as Utah reverted to some bad habits.
“It was really, really disappointing that second 20 (minutes of the first half),” Cooper said. “The script was written, and it was working very well, and then perhaps we started thinking it was too easy…and then let them back into the game.”
Utah went into the half holding a 28-14 lead, and soon added to that lead off a penalty kick from Joel Hodgson, extending the lead to 31-14 in the game’s 41st minute.
Dallas then responded with a try, cutting Utah’s lead to 31-19 in the 44th minute, turning a likely blowout into a competitive match for the final 35 minutes.
But then Dallas was issued its own yellow card in the 52nd minute, with Utah responding just two minutes later with Mano again touching the ball down off an assist from Makene to increase the lead to 36-19.
Makene proved to be involved in just about every try made by the Warriors on Saturday, rebounding well from an otherwise off outing last week versus the San Diego Legion.
“He was outstanding,” Cooper said. “Last week he was disappointed, but I feel today he was probably the player of the game. I thought he really attacked well, kicked well and he was all class.”
The Jackals wrapped up the scoring with a try in the 68th minute, cutting Utah’s lead to 36-26, which proved to be the final.
With the win Utah improves to 7-4 on the season with just five games remaining. The team will return home to host a big match versus the Houston SaberCats next Saturday.
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W Nation: Ep 90 | Playoff Positioning
On this week's episode of W Nation, Jarom Jordan and Banksy recap