The Utah and Idaho defending state champions clashed Saturday afternoon at Herriman high school in Utah, with Herrimanj coming out 57-10 winners.
This was a match between RUGBYMag’s #4 single-school team (Herriman) and the #20 squad, Capital out of Boise, Idaho.
Herriman traveled to Boise last year on a two-match spring tour and prevailed over Borah and Capital high schools. Capital, wanting to avenge that loss as part of a busy spring for them.
“We’ve been all over,” said Head Coach Matt Jacobsen, speaking of his team’s trip to play Jesuit (close loss) and Danville (win), as well as to Oregon and Washington.
Capital looked to establish dominance early by pounding the ball tight with their forwards, but Herriman, no strangers to physical play, stepped up to the challenge and all in attendance were treated to a hard-hitting 70 minutes of rugby. IRB-certified Referee Tasi Toala, who did an excellent job, at one point compared the physicality between the two teams to officiating a Division I men's game.
“This was easily the most physical came we have played,” said Jacobsen. “Boy can those Herriman kids tackle.”
Herriman struck first in this high-scoring affair. An early penalty and kick to touch resulted in a Herriman lineout about ten meters from the tryline. The Herriman forwards attempted a maul but were stopped by the large Capital pack. But that left space out wide, and the Herriman backs went through the hands down the backline to wing Sialao Mobley, and he powered over for the try.
Riding high after Mobley’s early score, Herriman kicked the ball deep into Capital territory on the following possession. Tough Mustang defense pushed Capital back to their tryline, and when Capital tried to round out of their in-goal, flyhalf and captain Moliki Mulitalo made a big tackle, stripped the ball, and dove over for another try. a huge Fullback Connor Hoff slotted the conversion for a 12-0 lead.
After these two quick Herriman scores, the visitors turned up the pressure and kept Herriman pinned in their own end. Capital’s hard running and deft kicking along with Herriman’s incessant penalties made it impossible for the Mustangs to clear the pressure for nearly twenty minutes. But despite Herriman’s lack of discipline in the rucks, their defense wouldn’t yield and held Capital scoreless through multiple goalline stands.
In the 24th minute Herriman was finally able to assert some pressure back onto Capital and some hard running from the Herriman backs got the ball into Capital territory. A backline move out wide got the ball into Hoff’s hands, and the fullback chipped over the blitzing defense and skillfully reigathered to score to make it 17-0.
Capital again looked to assert pressure on the kickoff and after a few more Herriman penalties, No. 8 Jeremy Hinton was sin-binned for repeated ruck infringements. Down to 14 players and defending their own tryline, Herriman looked to be in serious trouble. Capital, however, let the Mustangs off the hook with a penalty for not releasing the ball in the ruck and Herriman was able to clear.
A Capital lineout at midfield was spoiled by Herriman lock Gabe Ruflin and openside flanker Connor Dickerson caught the deflected throw and ran the ball up field. The backs got the ball within a few feet of the trying and then Dickerson dove over for the Mustang try to make it 22-0.
In the closing seconds of the first half, Capital was once again called for not releasing the ball. Mulitalo smartly quick-tapped and, exploiting the tiring Capital defense, raced 50 meters for his second try on the day. Hoff would nail the conversion and at the end of the first half the score was Herriman 29, Capital 0.
With both sides back to full strength, the first ten minutes of the second half were a struggle with neither side getting deep into their opponent’s half. Herriman scrumhalf Vili Bloomfield laid a big hi- that jarred both players. With both teams in scramble mode following the collision, Capital wing Jake Miller re-gathered the ball and tore down the sideline for the try to make it 29-5.
With a bit of a cushion and some good remaining depth, Bloomfield left the game as a precautionary measure. With their first score and the exit of one of Herriman's stars and leaders, Capital had momentum on their side.
Hoff moved to scrumhalf in place of Bloomfield and did well marshaling the Mustang pack. Herriman pressured the Capital line and slowly worked the ball down the field. Off a solid Hinton break the ball was swung out to the backs and Mulitalo popped a pass to a streaking Francis Bernard, who bulled over for a try that wrested the momentum away from Capital. Hoff would nail the conversion which pushed the score to 36-5 in favor of Herriman.
Capital came back on the restart and patiently drove the ball down the field. Herrman’s defense held for a time, but the Capital pressure was too much and after multiple Herriman penalties, Capital scrumhalf and captain Nick Dunstan picked up from a ruck and sidestepped a Herriman defender to dive over for the second Capital try of the day. The conversion failed and the score was now 36-10.
With the game firmly in hand and ten minutes remaining, Herriman kept up the pressure. Off a lineout deep in Capital territory, Bernard skipped a pass out to reserve center Ka’ohu Maumau who deftly took a gap in the Capital defense and ran in his first try of the year from 20 meters out. Hoff drilled the conversion and pushed the score to 43-10.
Herriman took the ensuing kick-off cleanly and kept the ball in the forwards for multiple phases. With momentum going forward, reserve flyhalf Brady Heninger put up a booming kick that rolled some 70 meters to the Capital tryline. The Idaho defense gathered the ball, but the pressure was on and the Herriman chase forced a fumble that Hinton nabbed for the try. Hoff again slotted the conversion. Herriman 50, Capital 10.
The result no longer in doubt, Capital continued to battle and spent the final five minutes camped out in the Herriman half. The Mustang defense held firm, however, and off a turnover, Canyon Hansen, playing fullback with Hoff up to scrumhalf, popped a pass to Mobley. Hansen was rewarded for supporting his teammate and five meters out, Mobley committed two defenders and passed back inside to Hansen for the final try of the day. The try was converted by Heninger and the final whistle blew. Heriman 57, Capital 10.
After the match, both sides met at mid-field to choose their men-of-the-match. Capital chose Dickerson from the forwards and Bloomfield from the backs. Both young men displayed their tenacity on the day as they caused serious problems for the Capital team on both offense and defense. Herriman chose the powerful Capital openside flanker Jaren Kahoiwai as the man-of-the-match. He caused headaches for the Mustang defense all afternoon and was a bruising runner off quick taps and in open play.
HERRIMAN MUSTANGS RFC: 57
Ties: Mulitalo 2, Mobley, Hoff, Dickerson, Bernard, Hansen, Hinton, Maumau
Convs: Hoff 5, Heninger
CAPITAL RUGBY: 10
Tries: Miller, Dunstan