Utah Warriors Erase Two-Score Deficit For Third Week In A Row

Jun 19, 2021, 4:35 PM | Updated: Dec 8, 2022, 10:53 am
Utah Warriors...
(Courtesy of Utah Warriors)
(Courtesy of Utah Warriors)

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – For the third straight week the Utah Warriors erased a two-score deficit and put an end to New York’s three-game win streak with a 29-28 victory over Rugby United on Saturday afternoon.

New York opened the scoring early with a try by Apenisa Cakaubalavu in the fifth minute of play, giving Rugby United an early 7-0 lead over the Warriors.

Two consecutive penalties by New York, however, positioned the Warriors at the 5-meter-line just minutes later, setting up a Utah maul and an ensuing try by Sama Malolo, knotting the game at 7-apiece in the 12th minute.

The battle between two of Major League Rugby’s top teams lived up to the expectations of a physical, tightly contested battle as the match entered the first water break tied at seven.

Two minutes following the first-half water break, Utah’s Paul Mullen was given a yellow card and sent to the sin bin for 10-minutes, focing the Warriors to play a man down. New York quickly took advantage of the yellow card as fly-half Harry Bennett took the ball into the try zone to give Rugby United the lead back, 14-7 in the 24th minute after the successful conversion.

Olive Kilifi gave the Warriors a quick answer in the 30th minute as the Utah prop muscled his way into the try zone for the third consecutive week, tying the game at 14. The tie only lasted five minutes before Sakaria Taulafo powered his way into the try zone for an automatic seven points, as New York reclaimed the lead, 21-14.

Despite a tough New York defense, the Warriors would not be denied before the half as Thomas Tu’avao was able to dot it down in the 39th minute, but an unsuccessful conversion from Utah’s Cliven Loubser left the Warriors trailing RUNY 21-19 at the break.

“The first 20-minutes was like the beginning of a boxing match where we were trying to feel each other out,” said Warriors Head Coach Shawn Pittman. “The half time was all about upping the physicality and forcing them to hang with the tempo we were playing at.”

For the third straight week, Utah found themselves behind two scores in the second half after Wilton Rebolo was able to dot it down for Rugby United in the 45th minute, giving New York a nine point lead, 28-19.

With the Warriors threatening near the try-line, a Utah knock-on gave possession back to Rugby United. It was then that Utah went to the bench in the 56th minute, bringing on USA Eagles Mikey Te’o and Mika Kruse along with Jurie Van Vuuren and Aston Fortuin.

New York was forced to go a man down in the 58th minute following a yellow card and Utah was able to take immediate advantage as Te’o passed outside to Cliven Loubser who was able to race his way into the try zone, cutting Rugby United’s lead to four, 28-24, after an unsuccessful conversion.

“Having Mikey and Mika come off of the bench later in the second-half was always the plan,” said Pittman. “We wanted to up the chaos and force New York to make tough decisions with Mikey and Mika on attack, and fortunately it worked out well for us.”

Leading 28-24, New York missed a critical penalty goal in the 65th minute that would have extended their lead to seven. In the ensuing possession, Utah scrum-half Danny Christensen weaved his way through the New York defense and into Rugby United territory. Despite the promising field position, a tough New York defensive stand was able to keep Utah out of the try zone and force a Warriors’ turnover.

Just a couple minutes later, however, the Warriors were able to regain possession and following a powerful maul, Chirstensen passed the ball out to Kruse who rushed into the try zone and gave Utah their first lead of the game, 29-28 in the 77th minute.

“Danny is the man and the boys all love him,” said Warriors Assistant Shaun Davies. “He’s come on hugely this year and there’s no one on our team with more heart and desire to help the Warriors get better no matter what it takes. He played well today and with both Fraser [Hurst] and [Michael] Baska getting the call up to National Tours, he’s going to get a lot of playing time against Rugby ATL and I’m excited to see what he can do as he continues to see the field.”

A New York penalty on the ensuing kick-off gave Utah a scrum at midfield. The Warriors were able to keep possession for the remainder of the match to come away with the victory and five table points to remain in second place in MLR’s Western Division for another week.

The victory over New York marked the third straight match in which the Warriors were able to erase a two-score deficit in the second half to come away with the victory, a habit that has earned them the moniker ‘Comeback Kings.’

“That game was massive for us as a team,” said Davies. “It wasn’t the prettiest win for us but it was a win we needed to be able to get with New York’s physical style of rugby. The boys just continue to believe in themselves and what we’re doing here and then you include how much fun they’re having, it results in everyone working extremely hard for each other.”

The Warriors are back on the road next Saturday, June 26, in Houston, Texas as they will face off against the Houston Sabercats in a rematch of Utah’s high scoring 50-43 victory over the Sabercats in Week Six. That game can be seen on KSL and The Rugby Network, along with radio broadcasts on 700 AM and 960 AM.

Utah Warriors

Trevor Allen

Utah Warriors Announce 2023 MLR Schedule

The Utah Warriors and Major League Rugby (MLR) announced the 2023 schedule, which will begin for the Warriors on February 18.
3 months ago
Utah Warriors - Austin Gilgronis...
Trevor Allen

Austin, Los Angeles MLR Teams Suspending Operation For 2023 Season

Major League Rugby (MLR) announced that two teams in the league will suspend operation for the upcoming 2023 season.
3 months ago
Brian Preece

Utah Warriors Head Coach Greg Cooper’s Outlook Shaped By Fight With Cancer

In 1981, Utah Warriors heach coach Greg Cooper was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer as a 15-year old teenager.
6 months ago
Utah Warriors Rugby...
Trevor Allen

Utah Warriors Announce Contract Extension For Assistant Coach Robbie Abel

The Utah Warriors announced on Thursday that they have signed assistant coach Robbie Abel to a three-year contract extension.
6 months ago
Trevor Allen

Greg Cooper Named Next Head Coach Of Utah Warriors

The Utah Warriors announced on Wednesday afternoon that Greg Cooper will be the fourth head coach in franchise history.
7 months ago
Rice-Eccles Stadium...
Brian Preece

Teams Across Utah Celebrate Independence Day On Social Media

On the Fourth of July teams and programs across the state took to social media to honor the signing of our Declaration of Independence.
7 months ago

Sponsored Articles

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.
KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.
Football soccer ball on grass field on stadium...
KSL Digital Sales

Everything You Need to Know to Watch the 2022 World Cup

Find out where and when to watch the upcoming games and final match for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, including where to find live updates.
ksl sports logos...
KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Jimmy Buffett

Get your Hawaiian shirts ready.
Iron Maiden tour...
KSL Sports

Win Tickets Wednesday: Iron Maiden

Iron Maiden returns to Utah in 2022 with The Legacy of the Beast tour.
Utah Warriors Erase Two-Score Deficit For Third Week In A Row