Utes use new system to stay undefeated

By By Kelsey Price

By Kelsey Price

After a tough and error-riddled win against No. 23 Air Force last week, the Scrummin’ Utes (3-0) looked like an entirely different rugby team as they rolled over Washington State 78-5 at Baliff Field on Saturday.

Head coach Blake Burdette said after the game against Air Force that the team needed to evaluate how it played the ball.

“We realized we needed to play in much better form if we wanted to continue to win,” he said.

Following numerous offensive and defensive mistakes against Air Force, the Utes switched their system of play against the WSU Cougars, which resulted in a wider, faster-paced game than Utah had previously played.

“It was the first time we used this system,” said fly half Thretton Palamo. “We were playing the whole field, which meant more players got to run the ball. It made a huge difference on all levels of play.”

The new system of play brought some big results to the Utes. Offensively, the Utes averaged a try8212;the equivalent of a touchdown8212;every eight minutes. Ute wings Blake Miller and Ryan Bailey and fullback Naki Angilau ran the ball up the sidelines, which resulted in frazzled attempts by the WSU forwards to stop the Utah offense.

On defense, Utah held WSU with little to no opportunity to advance the ball forward. The Cougars were continually forced into the back of their side of the field, which forced them to resort to a kicking-dominated offense.

Conversion attempts were also improved for the Utes, with Hayden McMullen successfully completing 8 for 12.

However, the rugby team still sees plenty of opportunity for improvement this season. In the ruck8212;the tackle/contact area in rugby8212;the Utes struggled to recover the ball quickly. They also started slowly on offense, a problem that has plagued the team this season.
“We’re still playing a little soft in the first half,” Burdette said. “We just don’t come out fast enough and hard enough yet.”

Palamo said both WSU and Utah played a more physical game in the second half. For Utah, the physicality meant a more assertive defensive that shut out WSU in the second half. This weekend, Utah will play its only two away games of the fall season in Boulder, Colo. The Utes will face their toughest opponents of the season in a doubleheader against Colorado State and Colorado.

Utah rugby8212;which is ranked No. 5 in fall polls8212;will face No. 4 Colorado (6-1) on Friday night. A team noted for its physical discipline, Colorado will be a test for Utah. Saturday, the Utes will play No. 9 Colorado State. With less than a day’s recovery between games, the weekend will likely be a challenge for the undefeated Utes.

The Utes will wrap up the fall season in a doubleheader against Utah State and Weber State on Oct. 10. Kick-off against the Aggies is at 11 a.m.

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Mike Mangum

The Utah rugby team put together a convincing 78-5 win Saturday over Washington State. Now the Utes will turn their attention to No.4 Colorado.