Warriors finish 2024 season with record-breaking crowd at home

SANDY — The Utah Warrior’s frustrating 2024 season within the Major League Rugby Competition came to a close on Friday with a 31-24 loss to visiting RFC Los Angeles.

Although disappointed with the final result on Friday, on top of the overall result of the 2024 season, Warriors Coach Greg Cooper managed to focus on what he believes is a very strong future of rugby within the state of Utah. Considering the record crowd of 10,900 fans in attendance at America First Field on Friday, Cooper has good reason to be optimistic.

“I’m delighted with what I saw here tonight,” Cooper said. “Our organization has done a tremendous job and (Warriors CEO) Kimball (Kjar) has done everything really, really well. I think the occasion we have to develop the game of rugby in Utah is really important. So, as a coach, I’m disappointed with tonight’s result and the season, but as a Warriors representative — it’s wonderful to see (what’s happening.)”

Indeed rugby is still very new in the United States, and despite slugging through an uncommon rash of injuries during the 2024 season, attendance remained high with fans showing great support with Cooper greatly appreciating all of it.

As for Friday’s disappointing result, a slow start and too many lapses in defensive accuracy gave way to RFC LA jumping out to an early 19-5 lead which proved tough to overcome.

LA’s first score came by virtue of a try scored in just the fifth minute to jump out to a 5-0 lead after a missed conversion kick. Utah responded quickly, however, with Joe Mano dotting the ball down in the try zone off of a successful maul to square things at 5-5 in the ninth minute.

From there RFC LA took off with a lot of momentum, aided by a yellow card given out to Utah forward Franco Van Den Berg in the 13th minute. Just one minute later LA scored a try to retake the lead at 12-7 before touching the ball down again in the try zone in the 31st minute for a commanding 19-7 lead.

“We’ve just lost a lot of defensive energy over the last month, or so,” Cooper said. “We’ve just lost too much defensive accuracy, but we just didn’t have it at the end, and certainly didn’t have enough accuracy in the beginning.”

Momentum shifted the Warrior’s way toward the end of the first half, however, as LA was forced to play a man down in the 35th minute after a yellow card ushered one of its players to the sin bin. Utah capitalized in extra time with Michael Manson scoring a try off a brilliant off-load from Caleb Makene to cut LA’s lead to 19-12 at the break.

LA extended its lead to 26-12 in the 62nd minute, although Utah came storming back to cut the lead to 26-24 courtesy of tries scored by Makene and Manson in the game’s 67th and 74th minutes, respectively.

But LA again responded, and extended its lead to 31-24 in the 77th minute, which proved to be the final. Utah did have a prime opportunity to tie the game, but an unsuccessful line-out deep in Los Angeles territory in the 79th minute all but ended the comeback bid.

“It was a really disappointing result for a lot of reasons, but if you score four tries, you should win the game every time out there,” Cooper said. “So we’re disappointed with that, and it’s been a very frustrating year, to say the least. The last impression is the lasting impression and we wish we could have made a better impression tonight for fans to go home with.”

With the loss Utah finishes the 2024 MLR Rugby season with a 5-11 overall record.


"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."