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LAS VEGAS — For the second-straight week, the Utah Warriors faced a second-half deficit against one of Major League Rugby’s expansion teams.
This time, the Warriors completed the rally to win.
Flyhalf Hagen Schulte had a try and a penalty kick conversion, and Utah rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to top the New England Free Jacks, 39-33 Saturday afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
Fetu’u Vainikolo, Dwayne Polataivao, Saia 'Uhila and Michael Baska each added a try for the Warriors, who improved to 1-1 on the season after last week’s loss at Rugby ATL.
"I'm very proud of the efforts from our entire team. It was a 23-man win today," Warriors coach Chris Latham said. "We know as a group we are well away from our best. So we will enjoy our win but we won’t let it get to us. We have so much more growth in us."
New England’s Mitch Wilson dotted the corner off a setup from Beaudein Waaka for the game’s first try 15 minutes in.
But Vainikolo gave the Warriors a 13-5 lead with an electric run down the sideline, dotting the corner for a try in the 30th minute, to help the Utah to a 13-12 edge at halftime.
The Free Jacks (1-1) scored two tries in the first six minutes of the second half to go up 26-13. But Polataivao converted a man-up try from scrum in the 53rd minute to pull the Warriors back within a score, 26-18.
Schulte found the corner for a try at the hour mark, then nailed the two-point conversion to pull Utah within one, 26-25 with 20 minutes to go. The home side in Las Vegas pulled ahead through 'Uhila’s try just under 10 minutes later, 32-26.
Former BYU standout Joshua Whippy and U.S. international Gannon Moore set up a try by scrumhalf Baska that capped a 28-0 run and put Utah up by 13 with just three minutes remaining. New England’s Conor Kindregan pulled one back moments before the final whistle, but the Warriors held on for the win.
Utah Warriors vs. New England Free Jacks
11’ UTA: Hagen Schulte penalty kick
15’ NE: Mitch Wilson try (kick failed)
26’ UTA: Hagen Schulte penalty kick
30’ UTA: Fetu’u Vainikolo try (Schulte kick)
36’ NE: Try off scrum (Guilmin kick)
43’ NE: Poasa Waqanibau try (Guilmin kick)
47’ NE: Deion Mikesell try (Guilmin kick)
53’ UTA: Dwayne Polataivao try (Schulte kick)
60’ UTA: Hagen Schulte try (Schulte kick)
68’ UTA: Saia 'Uhila try (Schulte kick)
77’ UTA: Michael Baska try (Schulte kick)
79’ NE: Conor Kindregan try (Guilmin kick)
Final: Utah 39, New England 33