If hard-hitting, powerful rugby was what the fans came to see on Saturday night, hard-hitting, powerful rugby is what they got, when Glendale’s DI team took on the newly formed Utah Rugby Brothers. While the final scoreboard read 56-24 in favor of GRFC, it was in no way a reflection of the hard-fought battle that Utah put up against Glendale.
Captain and number 8 Nic Johnson had this to say about Saturday’s encounter, “We needed to step up and play a quality opponent to test ourselves and I’m happy that we had an opportunity to play a quality opponent in Utah and they definitely tested us.”
Glendale went into the game wary of their opponent’s formidable reputation, strength and size. So when the first points on the scoreboard from a penalty conversion went to Utah in the first two minutes, Glendale realized that it was “game on” and they needed to shift gears. Fullback James Paterson answered Utah’s penalty conversion with one for Glendale in the eighth minute and when Utah scored shortly thereafter and converted the try, it was almost as if Paterson had been waiting for this to make his move. This he did in the 14th minute with a great play off Justin Pauga, Glendale’s outside center. Paterson crossed the try line using his speed ability to his advantage. While he was not able to convert his own try, it wasn’t long until flanker Michael Kenyon, with a huge effort from the forward pack, crossed the try line and this time Paterson’s boot was accurate and Glendale had the lead on the scoreboard at 15-10.
Glendale’s lead was short lived as a lapse in defense gave Utah the chance to break through and score. The try was converted and Utah had the lead in the 26th minute 15-17.
As the clock hit 33 minutes, Pauga found himself in a race for the ball in the try zone when the ball escaped past the Utah defense and went rolling into the try zone. Pauga raced for the ball, stride for stride with a Utah defender, and got his hands on it first to secure another five points on the scoreboard for Glendale. Paterson’s conversion attempt was successful and this time when Glendale took the lead, they never looked back. The score, as the teams retired to the change rooms for halftime, was 22-17.
The first half was a very closely contested game and Utah threw all they had at Glendale’s DI team. Johnson was full of praise for the way in which his team acquitted themselves in the first half, “We ran hard at them and I’m proud of the guys for not backing down from the physicality that they came back at us with.
“We didn’t tackle well. But credit to Utah, they ran hard and made it difficult for us to tackle them. We need to bring our line speed up, but with that we need to actually make consistent, repeated tackles.”
It was Johnson who got the second half scoring underway when he received a pass from a great dummy by Pauga — and Johnson went on to power his way over the try line for five points and his first of two tries in the second half. Paterson’s conversion attempt was successful and the score margin increased to 12.
In the 49th minute however, Utah came back with a strong try, which they converted, and this narrowed the score to 29-24. Glendale must have realised that they needed to step it up a notch at this point if they wanted to maintain a lead — and exactly four minutes later, Johnson went over the line for his second try which Paterson converted. Hooker and Man of the Match Stan Moaalii powered his way through the Utah defenders in the 58th minute to score, followed six minutes later by Paterson’s second try of the match.
Back replacement Sam Botkins, who came on for left wing Max Statler late in the second half, proved his worth as an impact player by ending off the Glendale scoring efforts in the second half with two tries in the 73rd and 79th minute — one was a pick-and-go from the back of the ruck just short of the try line and the other was a dive-in for the try line.
The final score was Glendale RFC 56, Utah Rugby Brothers 24.
In summing up the game, Johnson had this to say about the encounter, “It was a close game and by sticking to the game plan we were able to open it up a little bit at the end.
“Up front our forwards were awesome in the line out on Saturday and when we’re able to give the backs good ball like that, we’re very hard to stop.”
Johnson was impressed with the way the Utah Rugby Brothers played and commented as such, “I was really impressed with the Brothers and the way they played on Saturday. They really came up and hit us hard and ran at us with no fear. They should be proud of the game they played, because they really put it all out there.”
Johnson ended off by saying, “This was a great game for us to build off. It was a close game for a long time and many of our systems were really stress-tested tonight. Above all else I play rugby to win and so winning tonight against a good opponent means everything to me. I’m very proud of our team and we have plenty to work on from this game.”
DI takes on possibly their toughest opponent of the season next week when they play San Francisco Golden Gate at Infinity Park. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
Halftime score: Glendale 22, Utah 17
Full time score: Glendale 56, Utah 24
Glendale tries: Paterson (2), Kenyon, Pauga, Johnson (2), Moaalii, Botkins (2)
Try conversions: Paterson (4)
Penalty conversions: Paterson
Utah: tries 3, try conversions 3, penalty conversions 1