Injury-hit Warriors find another way to lose in 3rd straight, 27-20 to San Diego

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HERRIMAN — With a chance to end a losing streak and send a statement to the Western Conference in their first home match since May 4, the Utah Warriors did the opposite Saturday night.

San Diego's Payton Telea scored in second-half stoppage time to lift the Legion to a 27-20 win, handing the Warriors a third consecutive defeat at Zions Bank Stadium.

The win gave San Diego (8-4, 41 points) 5 points and a home-and-away series split with the Warriors. Utah is fifth in the six-team Western Conference.

Kieran McClea scored two tries to lead the Warriors (4-8, 27 points), whose poor night started early when Paul Lasike was a late scratch with a hamstring injury suffered in pregame warmups.

"My biggest disappointment was not that we lost the match, but that against all odds, we were going to win it," Warriors coach Greg Cooper said. "I don't even know quite what happened with the try, but we dropped the ball and they ended up scoring. We didn't cover the cross kick."

At one point, with Caleb Makenna helped off the field due to injury and the Warriors' medical staff running from player to player, Cooper sent back row Kalisi Moli to play on the wing.

It was that kind of night for Utah.

And yet, there was a glimmer of hope — even with a bundle of injuries that Cooper called so "enormous" that he shifted his formation twice before the second half.

"It just got worse and worse," said Cooper, who was already without starting wing Mika Kruse. "I'm disappointed with the loss, but mainly because we showed so much character against an injury-free, very good side. We probably should have been up by more than a couple of kicks."

Zion Going opened the scoring just 10 minutes in with a try. But after Joel Hodgson converted a penalty and the Warriors failed to connect on a pair of trips inside of 15 meters, Utah's offense went cold.

Connor Tupai scored in the 26th minute, dotting it down to pull one back before Matt Giteau tied the match for the Legion on a penalty at the half-hour mark.

The Warriors couldn't score off a man-up maul in the final minutes of the first half as both sides took the draw into halftime. San Diego then took its first lead of the match in the 45th minute when Giteau converted a second penalty.

The hosts were dropping with injuries, cramps and everything in between.

But the Warriors had McClea.

The first-year Utah back who joined the club in the offseason from New England dotted it down in the 48th minute to push the Warriors back in front.

Then, 12 minutes later, the New Zealand native scored his second try to stretch Utah's advantage to 20-13 with 20 minutes remaining.

But the Legion scored on a broken play in the final 10 minutes, and Giteau's conversion tied the match in the 76th minute.

That set up Telea's last-second try to send the Warriors to a third straight loss a week before traveling to second-place Seattle.

"For us as a team, it would have been an incredible way to come off — with all of the adversity that we had to go through," Cooper said. "It's not so much losing the game — I'm disappointed by that — but we put ourselves in position against incredible odds, and we didn't win it.

"We were decimated with injury and hanging in there. Even a draw would have been OK, but we lost the game."

Kickoff June 9 against the Seawolves is scheduled for 8 p.m. MDT on KMYU and The Rugby Network.

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