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UCLA takes on Utah Saturday in a game that will likely decide who finishes 2nd in the PAC Rugby Conference.
UCLA is coming off two impressive PAC performances - a 32-10 loss to Cal where the Bruins led 10-0 at halftime, and a 109-0 shutout of Oregon State. Utah also has a shutout of Oregon State on its record - 58-0 on February 22 - and that result put them at 3-0 with UCLA and led on the schedule.
Newly-crowned US Army Coach of the Year Mark Drown said his Utah team is getting there. They are young, and the program is still rebuilding from its 2012-2013 suspension, but veterans Danny Christensen and Tonata Lauti have the newer players on track.
"We have won some games, but we have also been making some really basic errors," said Drown, who confessed to studying UCLA's game against Cal very closely. "We spent the week working on securing the ball. We know UCLA is very well coached and are very effective with their kicking game. We will have our work cut out for us."
"Mark Drown has done an excellent job with Utah," added UCLA Head Coach Scott Stewart. "What he's done to get that program back up and running is impressive. We know this will be really challenging. We've been trying to build to this part of the year, and the effort from the players has been there, and that's really pleasing."
Stewart said Utah is full of unknowns, but he, as had Drown, has been stressing ball retention.
"They counter on turnovers really well and they are good with the tap penalties, so we have to be disciplined and careful," said Stewart.
Despite having some high-profile backs, Stewart said the Bruins forwards have been the highlight of the year so far.
"They have just worked really hard and are committed to winning ball," he said.
Meanwhile, the Utes know that this game will be harder than their recent efforts.
"I keep telling them, if you play rugby expecting never to be scored on, you're in the wrong game," said Drown. "What's important is how you rebound."
Speaking of rebounding, this game has other significance, in that it is Utah's first home 15s game since they returned from suspension.