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HERRIMAN — The Utah Warriors wanted to give their supporters a reason to come back to Zions Bank Stadium as they hit the midway point of Major League Rugby’s second season Friday night.
For just over 40 minutes, they did just that.
But rugby matches are played in 80 minutes.
Bradley Tucker scored twice, and the defending champion Seattle Seawolves held Utah to two second-half tries as the Seawolves handed Utah its fifth-straight loss 48-36 Friday night in front of a season-high crowd of 2,589 at Zions Bank Stadium.
"We wanted to come out tonight and show that we cared about our team, our club, our community and our supporters who come here each week," Warriors coach Alf Daniels said. "We just wanted to bring some attitude to our game.
"We felt like we have enough skills and good enough players and structure in place. We just hadn’t been playing with the right attitude. I think those first 40 minutes really showed that."
Tim O'Malley scored a try and converted five kicks to lead the Warriors, who got a long-awaited try from Josh Whippy in his return to the pitch. Franco Van den Berg, Fetu’u Vainikolo and Nolan Tuamoheloa each added a try for the Warriors.
Gannon Moore assisted on three tries for the Warriors, who fell to 1-6-1 and the second-worst record in Major League Rugby. The USA Eagle international has played a pivotal role in the team since returning to club competition after spending time with the United States at the Americas Rugby Championship — despite the poor run of results.
"It's something we talk about every single week," Moore said. "Even though the outcome hasn’t been what we wanted, look how much we smile and love each other. It’s just because of the energy from the fans and the players.
"We're getting better. The rest of the league take note of this game, and we’ll see what happens the rest of the season."
Tucker scored his first try for the Seawolves (6-3) to tie the match in the 30th minute, but Utah regained the lead on the next possession through Tuamoheloa in the Warriors' try to halt its six-match losing skid.
After clinging to a 22-17 halftime lead, Moore broke through the Seattle defense, slipped another pass to O'Malley to finish off the try for a 29-17 lead.
"Gannon had the ball and I don’t know how he kept running," said O'Malley, a team captain. "He had five guys on him, was on the ground, and just popped up and kept running. It’s pretty good to have somebody there to run off.
"It's the football background, he told me."
But the Seawolves rallied with four-straight scores, including Stephanus Coetzee spinning off a penalty maul for a try in the 56th minute en route to a 43-29 lead.
Whippy made his return to the scoring sheet, stopping the bleeding by picking up a loose ball in the 72nd minute and stretching in for a score.
"I think we are a really good team when we hold the ball," O'Malley said. "That's been a big focus for us, building pressure by holding the ball. Through that middle period of the second half, it felt like we couldn’t get our hands on the ball. It was wasted away.
"It just felt like we couldn’t get our hands on the ball."
But Matt Turner took a turnover and blitzed the Warriors defense 80 meters for a try four minutes later that put the game away for the visiting Seawolves.
The match was billed as a tribute match to the now-defunct Salt Lake Stallions, Utah’s professional football team that played in the Alliance of American Football, which shuttered operations Tuesday. The Warriors offered free tickets to Stallions season ticket holders and fans, offering a chance to experience a rugby match on the house after their American football team closed down the season prior to the originally scheduled season finale.
It paid off with the biggest crowd of the season — something the Warriors noticed.
"You can't miss them," Daniels said. "You certainly hear them. They bring so much energy and so much support."
The Warriors travel to New Orleans for the first of back-to-back road matches at NOLA Gold and Rugby United New York.
Utah returns home April 27 to host Austin Elite Rugby. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. MT at Zions Bank Stadium before finishing with three of the final five matches on the road.
2’ SEA: Brock Staller penalty kick
7’ UT: Tim O’Malley penalty kick
10’ SEA: Brock Staller try (Staller kick)
19’ UT: Franco Van den Berg try (O’Malley kick)
28’ UT: Fetu’u Vainikolo try (O’Malley kick)
31’ SEA: Bradley Tucker try (Staller kick)
34’ UT: Nolan Tuamoheloa try (kick failed)
Halftime: Utah 22, Seattle 17
43’ UT: O’Malley try (O’Malley kick)
46’ SEA: Tucker try (Staller kick)
50’ SEA: Sequoyah Burke-Combs try (Staller kick)
56’ SEA: Stephanus Coetzee try (kick failed)
67’ SEA: Riekert Hattingh try (Staller kick)
73’ UT: Josh Whippy try (O’Malley kick)
76’ SEA: Matt Turner try (Staller kick)