HOUSTON — Kurt Morath scored a game-high 11 points, and fullback Don Pati had a try and set up the game winner as the Utah Warriors earned a critical 36-30 road win Saturday afternoon over the Houston SaberCats.
“It was definitely tough. Man, it was hot,” Pati said.
“I think the first half definitely took a lot out of us. We were trying to adapt to it, but it’s good that we came out with the win.”
The Warriors trailed 20-17 at halftime, but Pati brought the visitors back early in the second half and helped set up Tonata Lauti’s try to go up 29-23 midway through the half.
The big No. 2 then set up Lote Tuipulotu’s go-ahead try with 10 minutes remaining, carrying a Houston tackler over the try line and giving the Warriors a 36-30 lead on Morath’s conversion kick.
"This is was a test and a try for our team," Warriors coach Alf Daniels said. "We showed our character and what we are capable of doing. This is a big win in our chase for the playoffs."
Matt Jensen and Lance Williams also scored a try for Utah.
Utah improved to 2-3 with the win for 14 points, putting the Warriors in the thick of the playoff race and just two points behind second-place Seattle (3-1). The Seawolves, who beat Utah 41-32 a week ago, host New Orleans at 4 p.m. MDT Sunday.
Houston falls to 1-4 with nine points.
In the reserves
Former BYU punter Jonny Linehan, who won a national title with BYU rugby, joined the team after opening the season in the broadcast booth. Linehan was named to Daniels' reserves in his first week of availability.
The flyhalf will give the Warriors immense depth if Tonga's all-time leading scorer, the 33-year-old Morath, is called up for international duty for a pair of friendlies in preparation for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Utah finishes a three-match road trip June 1 at Austin Elite before returning home for two final matches at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman beginning June 16 against New Orleans.
Last-place Houston hosts Seattle June 2, finishing the season with the current top-three of the Seawolves, Utah and the Glendale Raptors.