The Utah rugby team takes a two-game winning streak to Ogden tomorrow as they take on the Weber State Wildcats at 1 p.m.
UTAH 17, ARIZONA 7: At Phoenix, the Utes fielded a team minus a number of all-star graduates (John Cullen, Mike Sheppard, Mike Juszczak, Nick Mostyn) as well as missing Don Pati and Thretton Palamo, who are not playing this spring. Spencer Vickery, Tonata Lauti, and Danny Christensen head up the new look Utes and Haloti Liava’s is the new head coach.
The Utes’ 17-7 decision gave them a win in their first match in more than 10 months, but it was not an easy victory. The two teams, locked in a defensive struggle, failed to garner any points in a scoreless first half.
Utah’s three second-half tries were scored by Tu’uta Puloti, Shon Curtis, and Keoni Hamala, who switched from center to scrumhalf at the intermission to help ignite the Utes’ offense. Tonata Lauti played an outstanding game as did Shon Curtis, who came into the match at the half.
Danny Christensen said the team struggled as a result of new players getting a feel for one another and the fact that snow has prevented the team from practicing on grass. Tonata Lauti felt the Utes’ play was sloppy and the team has a lot to work on following their opening victory.
UTAH 46, ARIZONA STATE 23: At Phoenix, just three minutes into the match, following a pair of ASU penalties, Matt Ball scored a try in the corner for a 5-0 Utes lead. ASU cut that margin to 5-3 on a penalty goal, but Utah pressed their attack and after winning a 5-meter scrum at the Sun Devils goal line, Jacob Morrison peeled around pack and passed to Keoni Hamala who fed Scott Strong for the try and a 10-3 lead.
Arizona State battled their way back into Ute territory and, as a result of some good passing and poor tackling, scored their first try to make it 10-8. As the match continued to seesaw, Hamala passed to Ball who drew two tacklers and then fed Drake Myers for a try and a 15-8 lead. A penalty forced Utah to finish the first half a man down and ASU took advantage and, after winning a lineout, scored a try and conversion to knot the game at 15-15. The Utes never stopped attacking, however, as a lineout at the Sun Devil 10 meter line was gathered in by Benj Mills who then burst through a number of defenders for a try. Danny Christensen converted and Utah led 22-15 at the half.
The Utes’ offensive efforts continued in the second half, but their defense greatly improved. Utah won a scrum and after some excellent phased play Spencer Vickery crashed into the end zone and Christensen’s conversion made it 29-15.
Arizona State made a penalty goal 23 minutes into the second stanza, but two minutes later the Utes recycled a ball out of a ruck and the ball was fed to Taylor Thomas who broke a tackle and scored. Christensen’s extra points upped Utah’s lead to 36-18.
Thirty minutes into the half the ball popped out of a scrum and Gabe Ruffin picked it up and fed to Nate Kingsford for the try and a 41-18 lead. Two minutes after that a Sun Devils’ pass flew backwards over the head of one of their backs and hit the trailing referee. Tonata Lauti alertly chased it down and took it into the end zone for the final Utah try and a 46-18 lead.