Eliminated from playoffs, Utah Warriors snap 4-match losing skid with win over Dallas


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HERRIMAN — Eliminated from Major League Rugby playoff contention following last week's 36-27 loss to the New England Freejacks, the Utah Warriors had only pride to uphold in Saturday night's return home to Zions Bank Stadium.

For Michael Manson, that was enough.

Manson scored four tries, and the Utah Warriors snapped a four-match losing skid with an emphatic 50-46 win over the Dallas Jackals in the penultimate game of the season.

Kieran McClea added two tries for the Warriors (5-10, 33 points), who got scores from Tuvere Vugakoto and Joe Mano in the win that also serves as the final match at Zions Bank Stadium in 2024.

"The boys are happy to get that win," Manson said after the match. "We've missed out on the finals, so I guess we had to go back to why we love the game and play some footie. We made it a bit tighter than we wanted to, but that's footie. We're just going to move on and finish off the season."

Already eliminated from playoff contention, Utah will wrap up the Major League Rugby campaign on June 28 at America First Field in Sandy.

Sam Golla opened the scoring just two minutes in to give Dallas (6-9, 41 points) its first lead, and the Jackals led by as much as 24-5 midway through the first half.

But Manson scored his second try of the half to pull the Warriors up 26-24 on Joel Hodgson's conversion kick and McClea's second try to lift the hosts to a 33-24 halftime advantage with the Warriors' fourth consecutive try before the break.

Utah had just 44% of possession in the first half, but forced four turnovers including McClea's end-to-end try in the 38th minute to put the Warriors up by the halftime margin.

Joe Mano stretched the lead to double digits just three minutes after the break, converting a wide-open play on the wing with a long pass from Hodgson in the 43rd minute to push the Warriors' lead to 38-24.

Manson finished off his hat trick in the 55th minute, converting another counter attack initiated by Caleb Makene and dotting down the Warriors' sixth consecutive try to go up 43-24.

The native of Invercargill, New Zealand, added another try a few moments later, one off a well-executed lineout before scampering for his fourth of the night and a 50-24 advantage with 15 minutes left in regulation before the Jackals tallied four straight tries late to pull within the final margin.

"I think we had a bit more confidence this week," Manson said. "We had a bit more fun, and I was on the end of a few good plays."

That included a stoppage-time try in the corner that pulled the Jackals within 50-46 and clinched a vital second bonus points as Dallas hunts for points to chase third-place San Diego in the Western Conference standings.

Next Friday's final home match — dubbed "Warriors Fest" — will donate a portion of all proceeds to Primary Children's Hospital, and feature an attempt to set a world record for the largest beach ball pit at America First Field following the match, which kicks at 8:30 p.m. MDT.

"Rugby is exploding in Utah and we want to dedicate this evening to the strength and spirit of the Utah community, particularly our rising generation," Warriors CEO and co-founder Kimball Kjar said. "Utahns are some of the toughest people in the United States. We're honored that the community has embraced the Warriors and rugby wholeheartedly."

Gates open Friday at 6 p.m., including for the plaza in front of the stadium being filled with live music, food trucks, games and entertainment.

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