Fast start propels Utah Warriors by Old Glory DC for rain-soaked win

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HERRIMAN — A fast start and a new scrum half's best game of the year helped the Utah Warriors to their third win in four matches Friday night in front of a rain-soaked crowd at Zions Bank Stadium.

Kieran McClea was one of four try scorers, and the Warriors jumped out to a 21-0 start and pulled away for a 31-24 win over Old Glory DC in the eighth game of the season.

"That's probably some of the best rugby I've seen since I've been here in the last couple of years," Warriors second-year coach Greg Cooper said. "I thought we were clinical. Our attack looked sharp, and thankfully the rain held off (in the first half) so we were able to play that sort of rugby. I was very impressed with our first 20 minutes, and generally speaking, the first half. We did play some very good rugby."

Mika Kruse dotted it down in the 26th minute, and Joel Hodgson's conversion pushed the Warriors to a 21-0 start.

DC pulled one back off the maul in the 32nd minute, but the club missed the conversion kick as Utah took a 21-5 lead into halftime.

Frank Lochore and Dylan Nelson also scored first-half tries to help the Warriors to a big lead they never relinquished.

McClea pulled Utah over the line for a bonus point-clinching try that stretch Utah's lead to 28-5 shortly before the hour mark.

"We had a good week. We knew right what we wanted to do," said McClea, the 25-year-old scrum half from Ashburton, New Zealand, who was traded to Utah from New England in January. "I guess we got on attack and recycled the ball really well. The big boys were doing awesome in the middle reloading. We played fast, we played quick. There were probably a few opportunities we let slip a bit to put them away early, but I think its was a pretty awesome start for us."

The Warriors (4-4, 23 points) were cruising at that point, but DC scored back-to-back tries to pull within 28-19 in the 70th minute.

Joel Hodgson converted a penalty to restore the Warriors' double-digit lead in the 78th minute, but Old Glory (2-4, 16 points) finished one in the corner for five points and the final margin.

After struggling for the first few matches of the season, Hodgson has found his kicking boots while the rest of the club has found a fair form of health as Utah moved into the top-eight of the 16-team league table.

"He's in a purple patch at the moment," Cooper said cheekily of Hodgson. "He's a professional, and he works really hard at his game. He was going through a bad patch, but he worked at him and now he's kicking those goals. It's a real credit to him."

He's not alone. Mika Kruse and Caleb Makene have returned to full strength, pairing with Michael Manson on the wing to create a dynamic attack in the backfield.

"We're getting healthy. But we've made a couple of little modifications to the attack, and It think we look far more threatening now," Cooper said. "The second-half conditions were going to be tough, but I thought in that first half, we were a dominant side."

Utah is back home next Saturday, May 4 to host the Houston Sabercats at Zions Bank Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MDT on KMYU and The Rugby Network.


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