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Utah Warriors Fall To San Diego In Season Opener

February 18, 2023 - Major League Rugby (MLR)
Utah Warriors News Release

Utah Warriors' Joel Hodgson on game day
Utah Warriors' Joel Hodgson on game day
(Utah Warriors)

SAN DIEGO - The Utah Warriors incurred a tough 33-17 opening season loss on the road to the San Diego Legion on Saturday, dealing hopes of getting off to a fast start this season an initial blow.

Although disappointed with the result, Warrior players and Head Coach Greg Cooper understand it's a long season and things can turn around quickly. Considering what was shown on Saturday, Cooper strongly believes has the parts necessary to secure better results after being dealt an initial loss.

"I saw enough to think there's some promise," Cooper said. "They had four tries to our three...and I think some individual errors let us down today, but I saw enough to suggest we can move forward from here."

San Diego led off the scoring with a try scored during the 14th minute, with Utah responding well roughly two minutes later courtesy of Joe Mano crossing the try line following a nice forced turnover by Saia 'Uhila and subsequent assist deep in Legion territory. The Warriors missed the conversion kick, however, and still trailed 7-5.

San Diego took a lot of momentum just short of the 20th minute after 'Uhila was issued a yellow card and Utah was forced to play a man down for the ensuing 10 minutes. Those 10 minutes saw the momentum change with the home team taking a commanding 20-5 lead into the break.

"They got ten points off of that, and that was disappointing," Cooper said of the yellow card. "We don't want to lose a player unnecessarily like that, so it was a bit of a momentum shift."

The Legion led off the second half scoring with a penalty kick to extend its lead to 23-5 during the 49th minute. But again the Warriors responded, this time with Paul Lasike taking it across the try line, aided by an impressive run deep into San Diego territory by Connor McLeod. Following a successful conversion kick the lead was cut to 23-12.

Too many turnovers conspired to keep Utah from forging the comeback, however, which led to too many missed chances and long run-outs by San Diego for the remainder of the match.

"It's disappointing because we felt really prepared going into this game," said Warriors fullback Caleb Makene. "We didn't get to fire enough shots and show what we can do, but that comes back on us by making too many mistakes and not playing the territory game."

As for Makene, he scored Utah's final try of the evening after finding himself wide open toward the sideline after a successful set piece deep in Legion territory.

But those types of scores came too far and in between for a Warrior team that did see plenty of opportunity otherwise.

"We didn't finish off too many real good chances we had in the attacking zone," Cooper said. "I think once we sort that out, along with getting better territory and some other things, that this is a team that can compete at the top and become a very good side."

"We felt like the boys gave it 100 percent, but we weren't accurate enough," Makene added. "We're looking forward to firing more accurately next week against Dallas."

The Warriors will look to rebound versus the Dallas Jackals at home next Saturday at Zions Bank Stadium.

Images from this story

Utah Warriors' Calvin Whiting in action
Utah Warriors' Calvin Whiting in action

Utah Warriors' Joel Hodgson on game day
Utah Warriors' Joel Hodgson on game day


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Major League Rugby Stories from February 18, 2023

The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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