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The Utah Warriors Clinch A Playoff Spot With A 31-27 Victory

Looking to clinch a playoff spot, the Utah Warriors welcomed the Houston Sabercats to Zions Bank Stadium. Utah was able to secure that playoff spot with two fantastic tries in the last 10 minutes of the match. The Sabercats finished the season with only one victory after a promising pre-season.

Tonata Lauti continued his impressive 2018 season and scored the first try of the match. He took an inside pass and broke through Houston arm tackles for the try. The Sabercats were running high in this match and that cost them possession numerous times. Houston would run straight into the Warriors and Utah would hold them up in the maul.

Zach Pangelinan broke through the Warriors defense before he was able to offload to Cecil Garber for the Sabercats first try. Pangelinan was able to pass through a closing window of Utah defenders to get the ball to Garber. Sam Windsor put the Sabercats in front 10-7 in the first half with a penalty kick.

In a back and forth first half, Utah gained the lead back with a try from Saia 'Uhila. Utah ran a wrap around play from the lineout but they were stopped short of the line. 'Uhila was able to come up and pick the ball from the ruck and dive over for the try. Conversion was missed and Utah lead 12-10.

Sam Windsor missed a penalty kick from straight in front of the sticks. Sam Windsor made up for that miss, by dotting down for a try in first half extra time. Off a Houston scrum, Windsor received the pass and just powered his way through a gap in the Warriors defense for the try. Windsor converted his own try to give the Sabercats a 17-12 halftime lead.

This was a sloppy first half. Both teams had multiple handling errors that killed their momentum. Windsor continued his MVP season performance to give Houston the halftime lead. The Warriors let up at the end of the half and this caused them to trail at halftime.

Sam Windsor missed a second penalty kick from almost directly in front of the sticks. Windsor had only missed two penalty kicks all season coming into this match. Ara Elkington tied the match at 17 with a pick and go try from one meter out. Jonny Linehan with the conversion that gave Utah a 19-17 lead. Maka Tameilau was a wrecking ball in the lead up to this try.

After missing two penalty kicks earlier from in front of the sticks, Sam Windsor was able to convert a penalty kick from out wide that gave the Sabercats a 20-19 lead. Osea Kolinisau was able to extend the Sabercats lead with a try off a dummy pass from Sam Windsor. Windsor converted to extend the Sabercats lead to 27-19.

Alex Tucci started the Warriors comeback. He was able to break through two Houston tackles and fended off Malacchi Esdale before he was able to dot down for the try in a try of the week candidate. Ben Nicholls took over kicking duties and converted to bring the Warriors to within one point, 27-26.

The Warriors secured their playoff spot with a tremendous run from Fetu'u Vainikolo and his offload to Tonata Lauti. After securing the lineout, the Warriors put the ball in Vainikolo's hands and he made magic happen. He ran through the Sabercats defense, drew in the last defender, and flicked it back to Lauti for the winning try.

This was a tremendous back and forth match. Unfortunately for the Sabercats they let a lead slip through their fingers. That has been all too common for them this season. Utah showed tremendous resiliency to fight the whole match and secure their spot in the playoffs. The Warriors showed immense heart this entire season.

Houston has finished their season in last place. Utah must wait for the conclusion of the San Diego-Glendale match before they know who they will face next week in the Major League Rugby playoffs.

Man of the Match
Houston: Sam Windsor
Utah: Tonata Lauti 


Tries: Cecil Garber (16), Sam Windsor (40), Osea Kolinisau (65)

Cons: Sam Windsor 2/2

Pens: Sam Windsor 2/4 (25, 40 (missed), 44 (missed), 61)


Tries: Tonata Lauti 2 (14, 72), Saia 'Uhila (32), Ara Elkington (49), Alex Tucci (68)

Cons: Jonny Linehan 2/3, Ben Nicholls 1/2

Pens: N/a

~Josh Fredlund