Warriors fall to 0-3 after loss in Austin
AUSTIN — No team has been more impressive than the Austin Gilgronis in the early Major League Rugby 2022 season, and they showed exactly why during a match-defining 10 minute stretch versus the Utah Warriors on Saturday.
Quick and furious counterattacks and capitalizing on just about every mistake by the Warriors led AG Rugby to a 24-10 win, improving its record to 3-0 on the season while Utah falls to 0-3, with the loss.
And it was all pretty much accomplished during just 10 minutes of the 80 minute match, all of which was well-noted by Warriors head coach Shawn Pittman.
“I think we struggled a lot,” Pittman said. “Our line outs struggled quite a bit, and that’s been a consistent theme for the last couple of weeks, and put us in a lot of tough places…We build momentum and then give up a lineout or commit a penalty…it’s an issue.”
Following a successful penalty kick by Utah’s Caleb Makene, cutting Austin’s lead to 7-3 at the 47:20 the Gilgronis didn’t waste much time to respond. Capitalizing on some missed tackles and everything else mentioned by Pittman, Austin scored its second try of the match just one minute after Makene’s penalty kick, pushing its lead to 12-3.
The home team wasn’t close to being done either, as it were.
The highest-scoring team in the MRL converted another try at the 54:40 mark, and then another at the 59:20 mark to push the lead to an almost insurmountable 24-3.
“They took the opportunity where we gave it to them,” Pittman said. “…We gave up too many possessions on our half and didn’t exit cleanly, and gave away [too many] possession[s] on a line out. It’s just what really turned the tide.”
True to form, Utah didn’t quit at that stage, with Pittman making mass substitutions with those filling in fighting admirably until the 80th minute.
Most notable among the substitutions was Herriman native Tomasi Tonga, who made his first MRL rugby appearance a memorable one in scoring his team’s lone try of the match. The Herriman High graduate fought himself across the try line at the 68:40 mark for a try he won’t soon forget.
“That was really cool,” Tonga said. “I’ve always envisioned doing something like that and it was just cool to have it come full circle. I wish the outcome was better, but it is what it is and we’ll get better on Monday.”
“The guy is amazing,” Pittman added about Tonga. “Having him as part of our squad and the potential he has to play at a very high level — it should be special for the Utah community having one of their own do such an amazing job.”
Tonga grew up just a short bike ride from Zions Bank Stadium and is looking forward to becoming a bigger part of the Warriors’ success, helping out wherever he can.
Also notable for the Warriors, despite the loss, was Angus MacLellan becoming the first MLR player in history to play 50 matches when he entered Saturday’s match late in the second half.
The Warriors will take a much-needed bye week before working toward their first win of the season when taking on the Dallas Jackals on March 5 at Zions Bank Stadium.
Brandon Gurney is the Utah Warriors Team Reporter. With nearly two decades of experience covering BYU Football in print and on radio, Gurney brings a wealth of experience to the Utah Warriors beat. You can read all of Gurney’s stories on the Utah Warriors throughout the 2022 Season at WarriorsRugby.com
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