Major League Rugby Semi-Final: Glendale Raptors vs. Utah Warriors

Major League Rugby Semi-Final

The first-place Glendale Raptors will meet the fourth-place Utah Warriors in the Major League Rugby Semi-Finals at 7:30 pm MT (9:30 PM ET) at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colorado on June 30. The winner will meet the winner of the first semi-final between the Seattle Seawolves and the San Diego Legion on July 7 at Torero Stadium in San Diego. Both Semi-finals and the Championship will broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Glendale Raptors

With the USA Rugby Men’s Eagles having concluded their June tests, head coach David Williams has made seven changes from the previous week with six Eagles returning to the squad. In the forwards, Kelepi Fifita returns at tighthead prop, Ben Landry will be at lock with Dylan Fawsitt and John Quill at flanker. Fawsitt, who played hooker for the Eagles, will move to the back row, a position that he is familiar with at Old Blue of NY.

In the backs, Shaun Davies returns at scrumhalf and will pair with Will Magie at flyhalf. Bryce Campbell also returns as inside center.

Asked about where the Glendale side can win Saturday’s match, Raptors Assistant Coach Ted Browner says it all comes down to physicality: “We’re looking to get ascendency in the set piece,” he said. “We look for that in every game but we think it will be particularly important on Saturday. They’re a big, physical side, so we need to match that physicality in order to play our game.” The Raptors suffered their first loss of the season against San Diego last weekend, the California side securing the third-place playoff berth. Asked if the defeat changes the Glendale mindset for this weekend, Browner doesn’t feel the loss will impact how the team performs: “We plan to win every single game we play. We know how physical the Utah team is, and if we want to beat them, we have to match that physicality. The loss against San Diego might actually be a good thing in the long run. It allowed us to reset.”

The Raptors needed to make squad adjustments each week during the season. The Raptors roster is deep and the return of the USA Men’s Eagles players will add cohesiveness to the team.

Utah Warriors

Head Coach Alf Daniels has made two changes in his starters from last week’s 31-27 win over the Houston SaberCats. Both changes are in the backs with Tonga international Kurt Morath at flyhalf and USA Eagle Paul Lasike at inside center. Both players are returning from playing international test for their respective countries.

Lasike will captain the team and was a force for the U.S. Morath kicking prowess and leadership will be an asset against the Raptors. The Raptors had some discipline issues last week against the Legion, so any mistakes within Morath’s range will likely result in points for the Warriors.

The Warriors have proven to present a strong physical test for teams this season. Their set pieces improved as the season progressed and give the backs some space and their creativity and elusive running will place their opponents under pressure.

Glendale Raptors & Utah Warriors Squads

Glendale Raptors: 1 Blake Rogers 2 Zach Fenoglio (C) 3 Kelepi Fifita 4 Dakota O’Neil 5 Ben Landry 6 Dylan Fawsitt 7 John Quill 8 Sam Figg 9 Shaun Davies 10 Will Magie 11 Mika Kruse 12 Bryce Campbell 13 Chad London 14 Harley Davidson 15 Maximo de Achaval 16 Luke White 17 Nick Kwasniewski 18 Peter Dahl 19 Connor Cook 20 Brian Wanless 21 Mickey Bateman 22 Ata Malifa 23 Seth Halliman + Head Coach David Williams

Utah Warriors: 17 Maka Tameilau 2 Lote Tu’ipulotu 3 Angus MacLellan 4 John Cullen 5 Saia Uhila (VC) 6 Lance Williams 7 Ara Elkington 8 Tevita ‘David’ Tameilau 9 Joseph Nicholls, 10 Kurt Morath 11 Fetu’u Vainikolo 12 Paul Lasike (C) 13 AJ Tu’ineau 14 Tonata Lauti, 15 Don Pati 16 Ray Forrester, 1 Alex Tucci, 18 Kenny Scott 19 Matt Jensen 20 Win Elkington 21 Josh Anderson 22 Iniki Fa’amausili  23 Ben Nicholls + Head Coach Alf Daniels

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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant