Utah sprinted out of the gates to earn an early advantage, and used quick ball around the breakdowns to keep Arizona on its back foot nearly the entire match. In what was a complete team performance, 10 different Utes crossed the end line for scores.
“We toned down our attack patterns to make them simpler, and that worked out well for us,” Director of Rugby Mark Drown said of Utah’s game plan.
The Utah forwards, who seemed to be well overmatched in the team’s previous match against Cal, stepped up in a big way verses the Wildcats. Led by senior tight head prop Spencer Vickery, the tight five were all over the park, and produced plenty of clean ball for the Utes’ half backs.
The last two months have resembled a rollercoaster ride for the Utah rugby program. After being dealt blowouts by BYU and Saint Mary’s to open the season, the Utes seemed to right the ship after their Feb. 7 shutout victory on the road against UCLA. However, the No. 10-ranked team took a step backwards last week when Cal throttled Utah, 82-5.
Regardless of Saturday results, the players have returned to work every Monday excited for the opportunity to improve.
“They boys have been very resilient and they’re very determined to get better,” Drown said of his players. “The coaching staff has been phenomenal at adjusting and recognizing what they have to fix.”
Utah will have the chance to see just how much it has improved Friday, March 13, when it hosts Saint Mary’s – who blasted the Utes in California, 81-15, back in January.
“Saint Mary’s punishes you for turnovers and we gave them every opportunity to punish us,” Drown said of the two sides’ previous encounter.
Utah follows its match against the Gaels with a March 14 fixture against fellow D1A Independent squad Oregon State.