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After an extremely competitive match where the San Diego Legion outlasted a powerful Utah Warriors attack for a 31-24 win, San Diego head coach Rob Hoadley and Utah CEO/GM Kimball Kjar spoke with Rugby Today to get their reactions to the match. The Legion picked up their first victory of the young season while Utah got its initial taste of the regular season after being on a bye last week.
The Legion ran the gamut of emotions on Sunday of snagging the lead, having Utah come back, regaining the advantage, and then defending against a team surging towards the finish line for their first triumph in the MLR.
“We mixed the play up well, feeding off our forwards early with two quick tries, and finishing with our fifth and final try from a well-expected crows kick from Tadhg Leader to the returning Ryan Matyas,” Hoadley said. “That showed the way we want to play in terms of having threats across the field and stretching the opposition defense.”
The San Diego defense stepped up when it needed to, but Hoadley expects more from his squad in the future. “To be honest, although the defense did well in patches, we set our standards higher and will be looking for greater impact on Friday against Houston. We need to eliminate unnecessary penalties in order to fully maximize the strength of our defense.”
Kjar described the test as a variety of mistakes and errors that Utah either gave away or couldn’t take advantage of. “It was a game of miscues but more importantly for us, it was a game of decision making where we didn’t really have our thinking caps on when we needed it... I think we can tidy up a lot of things very quickly and have some better and stronger performances.”
There is a lot of the potential on the pitch for Utah, but it has to find an effective way to harness and channel the ability. “It’s just decision making,” Kjar sounded. “We have to be a little bit smarter in the right areas of the field. We can’t be making mistakes and digging ourselves a 12-point hole in the first ten minutes of the game and expect to win on the road.”
The next opportunity to get it right will be the home opener at Zions Bank Stadium on Saturday against the undefeated Glendale Raptors. “They are a consistent group, they have their system, and know what they want to do in attack and defense. For us, it’s going to be a matter of whether or not we can get ourselves right before next Saturday. It’s going to be a big ask.”
For San Diego, the Legion hosts Houston who is coming off a big win over Austin. “Houston will bring physical runners and strong set piece,” Hoadley said. “Their X factor comes from two Fijians - Osea Kolonisau and Josh Vici. These two are capable of creating magic from anywhere on the pitch and we will have to hunt in packs to neutralize their threat.”
“We will look to implement our style of play and push the pace of the game to create space that we can exploit,” Hoadley added. “It’s a quick turnaround between games, so we have to get our bodies right and focus on our game before Friday. We can’t wait to harness the winning feeling from today and get back in front of San Diego Legion fans later this week.”