Utah Warriors Victory Over Houston Guarantees First Winning Season In Franchise History
HOUSTON, Texas – The Utah Warriors scored 24 unanswered points to down the Houston Sabercats 24-5 in a Week 15 matchup between the two Major League Rugby Western Division teams.
Despite the two teams combining for 93 points in their Week Six matchup in Utah, it was the defenses for Utah and Houston that dominated to start the game. Both teams struggled to gain field position and maintain possession early on, leading to a scoreless first 15-minutes of action.
It was Houston that was able to get on the scoreboard first following a Utah knock-on, as Veramu Dikidikilati took the ball downfield and into the tryzone, giving the Sabercats the 5-0 lead.
Despite early struggles on offense, the Warriors were able to answer quickly with a try of their own as Bailey Wilson was able to offload to Josh Whippy for the try. The game remained knotted up at 5-apiece after an unsuccessful conversion for Utah, however.
The defensive battle resumed following the first-half water break as both teams traded kicks and penalties as both the Sabercats and Warriors went without points for 21-minutes before a penalty try gave the Warriors a 12-5 lead just before the halftime whistle.
“Obviously the match was different from the first time we played Houston from an offensive standpoint,” said Warriors Head Coach Shawn Pittman. “Both teams fought hard, particularly on the defensive side, trying to win the battle of field position and territory. Fortunately we were able to get the penalty try before the half to give us some confidence heading into the second half.”
The defensive battle continued into the second half both sides refused to concede points to their opponent. The Warriors were forced to play a man down for 10 minutes after scrum-half Michael Baska was given a yellow card in the 51st minute of play. Despite only playing with 14, the Warriors defense held strong, holding Houston without points.
The halftime score remained at the second half water break as Utah led 12-5 after 20-minutes of action following halftime. Eventually it was the Warriors who were able to break through for the first points of the second half as Mika Kruse was able to dot it down for five points, giving Utah the 17-5 lead in the 68th minute.
Leading 17-5 in the closing minutes and the victory in hand, the Warriors were still in search of their fourth try of the game which would give them the bonus point win. Threatening at the try line, it was Jurie Van Vuuren who was able to power his way into the try zone in the closing seconds.
“Really proud of the boys tonight, we came away with a bonus point win in some really tough conditions playing in the humidity,” said Warriors’ Assistant Shaun Davies. “That last try by Jurie to get the bonus point was massive, especially with Austin getting the win tonight as well. We now have a much needed bye weekend and can come back strong with the last 2 regular season home games.”
The 24-5 victory is the fifth straight for Pittman and the Warriors, who remain in second-place in a tight Western Division Playoff race. The victory also guarantees the Warriors will finish the season with a winning record, their first in franchise history.
“It just speaks volumes about the guys we have on this roster and how hard they’ve worked,” said Pittman. “This is a special group of players and it shows by how they have played the past month and a half. Whether it’s the come-from-behind wins the past few weeks or grinding out the win today, this is a team that is going to do what it takes to win and that is why you see them making history for this franchise.”
The Warriors enter their second bye week of the season before they return to Zions Bank Stadium on July 10 against Rugby ATL. The match on July 10 will cap off the Warriors’ Celebration of Rugby presented by OnWatch, which will feature a touch rugby tournament, Old Boys game, Warriors Academy game, fireworks following the Warriors’ match and much more. More details on the OnWatch Celebration of Rugby can be found at onwatchcelebrationofrugby.warriorsrugby.com.