Utah Warriors Prove a Tough Challenge for RUNY on Coney Island
April 24th, 2019
On paper this one looked like a cakewalk. The Utah Warriors trekked cross country from the Rockies to Coney Island to confront Rugby United New York, a team that beat them soundly 47-21 in a snow squall on March 8th at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. The earlier whitewash aside, it is difficult to travel cross country from Salt Lake to NYC and play rugby.
It was Pride night at MCU Park on Coney Island. In a warm up to the main event between Utah and RUNY, the DC Scandals rugby club took on New York’s own Gotham Knights. The Scandals were well ahead in the second half with a 26-15 lead. But Gotham closed the gap with a try making the score 26-22. A late try resulted in a home team victory for Gotham. The match was meant to convey the message that rugby is for everyone. RUNY’s first Pride night was lightly attended but the play on the pitch was compelling.
RUNY came into this game having lost for only the second time this season in a mistake filled game against the San Diego Legion. The Legion returned the favor, beating RUNY at home 29-19 after the New Yorkers had done the same to them 25-23 in in late January in RUNY’s first game ever back at the end of January.
But we don’t play rugby on paper, we play the game on the pitch. What may look like a potential blowout can end up a competitive game on any given day. Just ask Heyneke Meyer and South Africa’s Springboks who found themselves on the losing end in perhaps the greatest upset in modern rugby history when Japan’s Brave Blossoms famously defeated the Springboks 34-32 in Brighton during the 2015 World Cup. Despite a cross country journey, Utah came to play and instead of another RUNY blowout, what fans got was a tight, close game. With no scoring in the first and last quarters of the game.
The game began with RUNY quickly moving the ball upfield and getting inside the Utah twenty-two. A great line break and offload from Dylan Fawsitt in the fourth minute went for naught as RUNY turned the ball over just inches from the try line. The Warriors were quick to take advantage of that turnover and used their maul to surprising but great effect, marching right back down the field. The Utah maul got them inside the RUNY twenty-two. But the Warriors emulated the RUNY example and turned the ball over inside five meters. Neither side made much progress as possession went back and forth in a scoreless game.
Finally, in the 26th minute RUNY broke through with a try from Connor Wallace-Sims on a Ben Foden beautiful pass to cross the line for his fourth try of the season. With a difficult angle, Chris Mattina missed the conversion, leaving RUNY in the lead 5-0 with the opening score.
Shortly after, Utah’s Don Pati picked up the ball and got back to his feet after a tackle, moving across and down the field, seemingly bouncing off defenders as he chewed up the meters with a fantastic line break and carry all the way back down the field to inside the RUNY twenty-two. Pati offloaded to a streaking Gannon Moore who crossed the try line untouched in the 30th minute for his fourth try this season. A successful conversion kick put Utah in the lead at 7-5.
RUNY looked to take the initiative when Luke Hume passed to Dylan Fawsitt moments later in the 31st minute, with Fawsitt appearing to put RUNY back in the lead. Only, the officials called the pass from Hume to Fawsitt forward just three meters from the try line and RUNY left points on the field once more. But all was not lost, as not long after RUNY got the upper hand once more. Mike Petri made a quick line break and a dummy, turning up field and then passed to Dylan Fawsitt who crossed the try line just outside the post for his sixth try of the season and a 12-7 RUNY lead after a successful Mattina conversion. Utah come back before half time with a try in the 39th minute After a missed conversion it is 12-12 at halftime
With the ambient temperature in the low 50s and a strong wind blowing into the park making spectators feel much colder, the question was who wanted to win this game. This as soon answered when the Warriors came out of the clubhouse with a purpose, sensing a possible upset and in short order pushed across the try line in the 42nd minute as scrumhalf Johnny Ika got his second try this season. The conversion put Utah in the lead 19-12, leaving more than a few of the home crowd bewildered and wondering what was going on. Entering this game, the Warriors had won just once in nine games this season, yet RUNY with just two losses from nine games was struggling.
In the 47th minute however, RUNY put a few minds at east as Connor Wallace-Sims once again crossed the try line, this time in the corner on a great pass from Cathal Marsh who had just returned to action in this game from injury. The unsuccessful conversion left RUNY trailing 19-17. Utah got a penalty in the 50th minute at midfield and decided to go for the points, kicking the penalty from 48 meters. The kick increased Utah’s lead to 22-17.
In the 60th minute John Quill closed out the scoring with his fourth try of the season. Quill’s try earned his team a four tr bonus point. Mattina’s successful conversion put RUNYin the lead 24-22.
There was no more scoring in the final quarter of the game. But no scoring does not equal no drama. The last five minutes were a contest of wills with Utah desperately holding on to keep RUNY from scoring. RUNY crossed the try line twice, only to be held up for a five-meter scrum ad the Utah defense bent but would not break. Unable to score, eventually RUNY kicked the ball into touch to seal a hard-earned victory. But Utah earned a well-deserved bonus point in keeping RUNY from scoring and losing the game by less than 7 points.
The win moved RUNY back into fourth place in the standings with 37 points. RUNY’s next game is on the road at Glendale when they take on the 5-4-2 Raptors.