Utah Warriors’ season hangs in the balance in final away match of the season.
The Warriors season started on a difficult foot. They lost their first two matches against San Diego Legion and Glendale Raptors. Since then things have improved with Utah winning two of their last three matches. Three matches remain for each MLR team, except Glendale Raptors. With that limited time only 5 points separate 3rd place from 7th. That is a very narrow margin for error. This week is Utah’s final away match of the season against the late blooming Austin Elite.
Austin Elite have as much to lose as Utah
Austin Elite had a difficult time starting out their season, losing to the Raptors and Sabercats on the road. All three Austin losses have been on the road, and are one of only 3 teams that are undefeated at home. Austin has worked their way from last place to 4th place behind Utah. The Elite have developed a stifling defense that only allowed five points at home to San Diego last week. This close to the end of the season is the perfect time for the defense to be gelling as it appears Austin’s has.
This defensive prowess has been combined with a continuation of their strong attack. Austin’s attack has performed well all season long, even in their poorer performances.
— Austin Elite Rugby (@Austin_E_Rugby) May 28, 2018
The biggest concern this week is the loss of Hanco Germishuys to the national team. Hanco has been the backbone of the team since last year’s Austin Huns won the D1 national club championship. It is likely to be mitigated by a more dominant role by Captain America himself Todd Clever.
Utah’s slow freight train.
It is unlikely that Utah will have the same problems that San Diego experienced. Legion relied heavily on open spaces to make progress. When Austin shut down their running lanes it killed the San Diego attack. The Warriors won’t need open spaces for their attack. The key feature of the Warriors attack is the drive into traffic. Utah has no concerns with running directly into contact and slowly breaking down the defense. The key concern is how deeply felt the loss of Paul Lasike to the national team will be to the grinding attack. The Warriors have shown the ability to take the ball wide, but usually later in the match once the defense has been worn down.
Defensively Utah has not been spectacular, but have kept close in their losses and able to outdistance their opponents in their wins. Last match between Utah and Austin, the Warriors managed to hold the Elite to their fewest points of the season.
The key to this match is if Utah can score 17 points or more. The Warriors have not scored less than 24 points in any match this season. This will be key against Austin who have not allowed more than 17 points in either home game. If Austin can break through and manage 3 tries, the match is very likely to be taken by the Warriors.
“Main photo credit: USMLR”