The University of Utah find themselves in the Barnburner for the second straight week as they face Air Force in a Western Conference match that will likely determine the #2 playoff seed from that conference. Both Utah and Air Force were dealt a loss by BYU and neither wants another regular season loss on their records heading into the close of the regular season. The match will kick off at 1:00 PM M
T at the Air Force Academy Rugby Pitch, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After a tough 22-38 loss to BYU in the Wasatch Cup last week, Utah looks to get back on track with two matches in two days. On Friday, Utah will travel to Boulder to face Colorado, then about 16 hours later will kick off against Air Force in Colorado Springs. With three matches in just seven days it is crucial that Utah properly takes care of their bodies after such severe contact. The forecast over the weekend in Colorado is in the 50’s / 60’s so the Utes need not worry about the heat draining them of energy.
Air Force comes into the match with a high level of confidence after scoring a combined 120 points in their past two wins over Colorado and Colorado State. The Zoomies’ ability to offload in contact has proven a huge success this season and they will be looking to continue their physical play this weekend against an equally big and strong Utah side.
The Zoomies have had a pretty even distribution of try scoring across their lineup. Richard Ollis leads Air Force with four tries and Jacob Byorth, Mark Griffin, and Kenneth Kinderwater have touched down three a piece. The same goes for the kicking duties for the Zoomies. Michael Fleming leads the way with ten conversions and three penalties, while Christopher Poje has kicked through six conversions and one penalty and Patrick Murphy has kicked through two conversions and two penalties.
Utah’s forward pack is one of the most mobile and arguably the biggest forward packs in the country. Nick Mostyn, Michael Shepherd, Les Soloai, and Shon Curtis lead the way up front for the Utes, and in doing so Curtis has scored three tries this season, third on the team. These players are just four names in a stellar pack that powerfully sets the tone of play for Utah. To compliment the strong forward play is an explosive and speedy backline. Daniel Christensen has directed the Utah backline quite smoothly this season and has been extremely effective in getting their playmakers the ball. The speedsters Christensen has been dishing the ball to are the Lauti brothers, Sione and Lopeti, as well as center Trevor Trowbridge, who has scored four tries this season.
The match on Saturday is basically win-or-go home when the regular season is done. Both teams know the implications of the match and will fired up and ready to go at kickoff. The team that can control the rate of play to match their style and capitalize on the other’s mistakes will give themselves the best chance to win. It’s going to be a heck of a ball game.