The Warriors hosted Austin Elite Rugby on Saturday evening in Zions Bank Stadium which has to be one of the most picturesque settings for a stadium in America.
Austin started the game in possibly the worst way possible as they had players in front of the kicker. The Elite were pinged for this straight away.
The Warriors on the other hand started the game on the front foot and on the third minute this showed when O’Malley took the ball up to the Austin defence and half broke the tackle before offloading to Fetuʻu Vainikolo who ran a great support line to gather the offload then ran direct and hard to finish under the posts to make the score 7-0 to the Warriors in the opening 5 minutes.
The Elite did however come back into the game in first half. On the 10 minute mark JP Aguirre raced up breaking his own defensive line and put in a monster tackle to turn possession over. This tackle kick started a period of dominance for Austin Elite Rugby in which they threatened the Utah line. On the 18th minute they finally got their reward for all their dominance as they drove over the line to ground the ball against the post for a seven pointer and to tie the game up, with Juan Echeverría claiming the credit for the try.
The Elite then followed this try up almost immediately after the kick off with a terrific flowing try. A sweeping move saw a wonderful flat pass thrown by Silva to Vilaseca who drew the last defender before passing to the supporting JP Aguirre to touch down.
The Elite led the game 12-7 when both teams took water on board at the 20 minute mark.
Utah Warriors hit back to keep themselves in the game on the 26th minute. A flowing move which saw backs and forwards show great hands to pass the ball out the line and eventually see fullback James Semple to touch down in the corner. Tim O’Malley slotted a a difficult conversion to make the score 14-12 to the Utah Warriors.
Austin Elite continued to excert pressure and were the better side in the first half, dominating possession and territory however they could not make it count and went into half time trailing by two points with the half time score 14-12 in Utah’s favor.
The Warriors came out for the second half fired up and scored within the first two minutes of the half starting. A move which saw full back James Semple attack the blindside before throwing an incredible floated pass to Tim O’Malley while running at full speed. O’Malley then shipped the ball onto Awara Elkington who touched down for a great try.
In the second half the Elite moved the ball from side to side but failed to make the same impact as they did in the first half when they had a more direct approach with their forwards picking and driving more frequently. As a result, the game was not as high scoring and at times was error strewn with the Warriors happy to soak up pressure.
Don Pati has been electric this season showing how dangerous he can be on the counter attack with his incredible pace. Against the Elite he was not as prominent as he usually is, until the 66th minute when he burst into life.
Pati set up the Warriors into a great position deep in try territory following his first real impact in the game. Pati showed his pace sprinting down the line before being tackled. From the resulting ruck, Lance Williams picked and drove forward before being tackled by 3 Austin defenders and then offloaded to the on rushing Soloai as he touched down under the posts. The score with just 14 minutes to play was 28 – 12.
The offload by Williams (who was named CBS man of the match) showed how integral his offloading game is to the momentum and continuity of the Warriors attack. Williams also showed how much of an influence he is defending around the ruck by disrupting and slowing down play constantly throughout the game.
Then the play of the game came about on the 76th minute. Fetuʻu Vainikolo showed why he is the all time top try scorer for the Tongan nation team. No less than 6 Austin defenders failed to halt him as he bulldozed and evaded his way to the line to touch down for a superb try and leave the score 35-12 with just 4 minutes to play.
Austin Elite finished the game on a positive note as they scored a try in the 82nd minute to finish the game. The Elite took the more direct approach of picking and driving which gave them more success in the first half also.
The game ended 35-19 there after with Utah Warriors securing the winning bonus point to move ahead of the SaberCats to 7th in the standings. Austin remain bottom of the table with 4 bonus points.
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