Warriors Defeat Elite for First Win of the Season
Warriors Defeat Elite for First Win of the Season
By: Colton Strickler, MLR Correspondent
Photos: Davey Wilson
It was a cold, rainy night at Zions Bank Stadium, but the Utah Warriors finished red-hot. They used a six-try performance to knock off Austin Elite Rugby 41-22 and pick up their first win of the season.
“It feels amazing,” was all Warriors’ inside centre and co-captain Paul Lasike could say after the win. “Finally.”
They say the first win is always the toughest, and this one wasn’t going to come easy. From the very beginning of the match, it was apparent that the team that could hang onto the ball was going to come out on top. Utah (1-2) proved they could, and Austin (1-3) simply couldn’t.
“The weather is no excuse for the loss,” Austin flanker Hanco Germishuys said after the match. “We have rainy weather down in Austin too, so this weather was no excuse for being a loser today.”
Despite the early handling errors caused by the weather, Austin had the chance to strike first. Fly-half Timothee Guillimin missed his first penalty kick of the day, and Utah made them pay by answering with a 15-0 run.
Warriors’ fly-half Kurt Morath got the scoring started with a penalty kick of his own. Morath then played the role of distributor and exploited a numbers advantage by finding fullback Jared Whippy in space. Whippy threw a dummy and sliced behind the defender for the match’s first try. Morath hit the conversion to take a 10-0 lead.
The Warriors hit back with another try shortly after. They used a scrum to settle into some phase play deep in Austin territory, and Morath again found the perfect pass, this time to Lasike, to extend their lead. He pushed his conversion left but just like that the Warriors found themselves up 15-0.
Austin was able to stop the bleeding with some phase play of their own. They used a series of pick-and-goes to grind the Warriors down, and scrum-half Marcus Walsh eventually got into the in-goal for their first try of the match. Guillimin nailed the conversion and Austin was right back in the match.
Just when Austin was presented with the opportunity to flip the momentum, the handling errors reared their ugly heads. Austin hooker Mike Brown was presented with a yellow card for a dangerous tackle deep in their own territory and Utah elected to scrum. Even with their replacement hooker, they stole the scrum and sent it out to the backline who knocked the ball on before they could clear it out.
Utah capitalized on this mistake with a try when Morath again found the mismatch, this time it was wing Josh Anderson, in space. Morath nailed the conversion and the Warriors took a 22-7 lead into the half.
Aside from the handling errors, Germishuys knew where it went wrong for Austin.
“It just came down to the end,” Germishuys said following the loss. “At the end Utah had more pace than us, more passion to get that win. In the second half we had that 20 minutes but then we started falling off.”
He was right. Utah put together a second half that was almost good enough to secure the win, but it fell apart in the final eight minutes. Germishuys himself got the scoring started in the second half when he took an offload from Andrew Suniula, who disrupted Utah’s defensive with a big line break. Guillimin couldn’t convert, but Austin was beginning to claw their way back into the match.
Unfortunately for Austin, their runs weren’t broken apart by Utah tries. Every time Austin began to string something together, Utah found a way to break it up.
Utah’s try that followed Germishuys’ was the one, if not for a late onslaught, that might’ve won the game for the Warriors. Hooker Lote Tu’ipulotu threw the ball in for a Warrior’s lineout deep in Austin territory. Just as it seemed as if they were going to start a maul, flanker Lance Williams sent the ball out to an uncovered Tu’ipulotu who took the ball in for the try. Morath wasn’t able to convert, but the Warriors took a 27-12 lead.
Austin began to chip away at the 15-point deficit with a Gullimin penalty kick. They then followed it up with a try when fullback Ned Hodson put a kick through that ricocheted into the hands of Walsh who took it in for his second try of the match. Guillimin’s conversion made it 27-22 with eight minutes to play.
Then the wheels fell off.
“I think it was just heart,” Lasike said of the way the Warriors finished the game. “I think the boys played with a lot of heart today and we just wanted it.”
Austin, presented with a lineout in their own territory, threw the ball over the top directly into the waiting arms of Utah’s Maika Hafoka who scored rumbled in for a Warriors’ try. Morath converted, and Utah jumped out to a sudden 12-point lead.
They put an end to Austin’s chances of winning when Morath put a kick over the top to fullback Joseph Nicholls. Nicholls toed it himself and jumped on the ball in the in-goal for the match’s final try. Morath’s conversion extended the Warriors lead to 41-22, and Utah picked up the win.
“It’s nice to finally see some fruits of our labor come along,” Lasike said after the win. “Now we just can’t let off. We’ve got to come back to practice on Monday and Tuesday and get back into it. Enjoy it tonight but we’ve got to keep moving forward.”
The Warriors picked up the four-try bonus point in the win. Utah will travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Seawolves Sunday, May 20, while Austin Elite Rugby will enjoy a week off.
Tries: Jared Whippy, Paul Lasike, Josh Anderson, Lote Tu’ipulotu, Maika Hafoka, Joseph Nicholls
Penalties: Kurt Morath (1/1)
Conversions: Kurt Morath (4/6)
Austin Elite Rugby
Tries: Marcus Walsh (2), Hanco Germishuys
Penalties: Timothee Guillimin (1/2)
Conversions: Timothee Guillimin (2/3)
Colton can be reached at [email protected]
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