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In front of a boisterous sold-out crowd at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, Wash., 80 minutes of exciting rugby was played where the home-town Seattle Seawolves outplayed the Utah Warriors to a score of 41-32. Each team crossed the whitewash five times but Seattle made all of their conversions and one more penalty to secure their third win of the season.
The first half featured the fast, fun, and entertaining rugby promised by the MLR with both sides showcasing their high levels of skill and athleticism. The squads traded tries throughout the period and Seattle led 27-20 at the half.
After the break, the action slowed and became more methodical. Utah had flashes of glory but the “Sea-Wall” defense prevented points from being scored at crucial moments. Tries from Phil Mack and Vili Toluta’u pushed the Seattle lead to 41-20 before Utah struck back with scores from Ara Elkington and Afu Paki in the final 15 minutes.
“We were a bit scrappy at some points and the comfort and words among the team were what kept us driving forward,” said Toluta’u, who scored a pair of tries in the contest. “Organization from the backs to the forwards allowed us to play our game, especially Peter Tiberio giving us go forward momentum multiple times throughout the match.”
“Although we had a strong performance, we still made a few mistakes - especially in the first few minutes,” Toluta’u added. “My main takeaway from the game is how important it is for the team to be supportive of whatever decision is made, whether it was the best one or not. All you can do is continue on forward and make an impact on the next opportunity that comes your way.”
Utah captain Paul Lasike summed up the match saying, “[Seattle was] honestly just a really good side today. Usually, we can pinpoint something but I thought they were solid all around and we came up short. We missed close to ten points in conversions and that could have brought it a little bit closer to make it more competitive. Overall, they were just a better team.”
Head coach Alf Daniels indicated that Utah has the tools, but needs to find the killer instinct to finish. “[The deciding factor was] a couple of little things at crucial times and Seattle’s ability to capitalize on those mistakes and put points on the board... At one stage, we had 20-25 phases, we needed a little bit more composure to finish those opportunities when we were in the opposition 22. We were in the 22 probably 18 times and we didn’t come away with points.”
Utah has come a long way since the start of the first preseason in March and Lasike firmly believes his squad has matured over the course of the season. “That Seattle team today could have beaten anyone, but if you look at our first few games compared to now, we have taken huge steps. Overall, I’m proud of the boys, they've become better, and we’ve tried to work on things we have struggled with in past games. We just have to get back to the drawing board on Monday and go from there.”
The Warriors head to Houston on Saturday with both teams looking for wins to stay alive for the postseason. “[The Sabercats] are big, physical, and play good phases of play," Daniels said. "They attack well and defensively, their line speed is good at putting you under pressure. They are pretty similar to most teams in the competition and it’s just a matter of what team is going to be able to absorb the pressure and then take some points away.”
Seattle hosts NOLA next and the Gold is coming off an emotional victory at home against Houston. These two teams just played each other in Week 4 and the Seawolves won by a mere two points.
“NOLA caught us a few times on the outside so that is what we worked on leading into the Utah game,” Toluta’u said. “We just have to play our Sea-Wall defense and push them towards the sideline. There is still room for improvement in our defense but trusting our brothers from our left and right is what will get the job done against NOLA.”