Utah Warriors vs NOLA Gold: MLR 2019

The Utah Warriors host NOLA Gold Rugby Club on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at 7 pm MST (9 pm EST) at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. Tickets are still available, however, for those who can’t attend, the match is being broadcast on ESPN+, KMYU, Cox Sports Television, and on the Utah Warriors Facebook page.

The Utah Warriors are in 6th place in the Major League Rugby standings with a 1-1-1 record and 6 points, while NOLA Gold has a 3-1 record and are in 2nd place with 17 points.

Match Comments

Utah Warriors Head Coach Alf Daniels has made one change in his starters and several positional changes in the backs with Gannon Moore on international duty. James Semple returns at flyhalf with Tim O’Malley, Jeremy Misailegalu, and Fets Vainikolo shifting to inside center, outside center, and wing, respectively. Kenny Scott also joins the match-day 23 man squad replacing Mike Mudu.

NOLA Gold Head Coach Nate Osborne has made six changes to his starting XV and another five changes to his reserves as the team is confronted with Huber Buydens, Ignacio Dotti, and Kyle Baillie playing in the Americas Rugby Championship and with Tony Lamborn and JoJo Tikoisuva also out.

The team has fared well when they have had to juggle their squad previously. Five of the changes in the starters are in the forwards with Kevin Sullivan at loosehead prop and Eric Howard at hooker. They are joined by Ben Tarr in the front row. Both William Waguespack and Bill Stewart return to starting roles at lock and John Sullivan at flanker. Kane Thompson moves from lock to No. 8, with one of the League’s leading tacklers, Zack Stryffeler at flanker.

In the backs, Nick Feakes replaces JoJo Tikoisuva at wing with the other backs retaining their starting role. In the reserves, Mason Briant is at tighthead prop, both Moni Tongauiha and Kevin O’Connor make their 2019 team debuts at flanker, Bobby Johns will be at center or wing, and Michael Baska at the back three.

Stats Review Report (March 3, 2019)

This is the first time that I have ever seen a report and I have included a sample for those interested in team statistics. More emphasis was placed on the teams rather than individual players.

Statistics are indicators of how the team has been functioning in many areas, but team composition changes due to availability with the Americas Rugby Championship impacting the beginning of the season. Injuries are also a factor. Teams still must play the match in various weather conditions and momentum can switch in an instant and lead to wins, losses, or in Utah’s case last week, a draw.

The Utah Warriors are the #2 defensive team in the MLR, while they rank #8 in attack. They face NOLA Gold, who are #1 in the attack, while #9 in defense.

The Utah Warriors have scored 6 tries and conceded 6 tries in 3 matches or 1 per every 40 minutes played. They have also scored 5 penalty goals (1 every 48 minutes) and yielded 6 (1 per every 40 minutes). The team has spent 41.7% of the attack while spending 38.3% on defense. The team has maintained 52% of their possession and utilizes line speed and tackling in defense. The opposing team has not reached the gainline 80% of the time and 84% of tackles are made. The Warriors are among the least penalized teams in the MLR and generally concede penalties when tackling.

NOLA Gold is #1 in the attack scoring 20 tries (1 every 16 minutes), yet #9 in defense as they have conceded 17 tries in four matches (1 every 18.8 minutes). The team has added 5 penalty goals (1 every 64 minutes) and have conceded 3 (1 every 106.7 minutes). NOLA Gold attacks quickly and only maintains 46% of their possession). They spend 37.2% on the attack while defending 42.8% of the time. The team is also 55% more likely to commit a penalty than the Warriors, yet that has generally been in opposition territory. Like the Warriors, many penalties have been after tackles.

Set pieces are relatively even with the Warriors winning 85% of their scrums and 89% of their lineouts, while NOLA Gold has won 90% of their scrums and 93% of their own lineouts. The Warriors have also stolen 27% of opposing lineouts to 19% for NOLA Gold. Scrum infringements have impacted the scrum percentages.

Both teams maintain possession in the breakdown. The Warriors have a 96% retention with 5 steals, while NOLA Gold has a 98% retention with 4 steals.

Each team has several players who have made the most ball carries. For the Warriors, Lance Williams, Tim O’Malley, and John Cullen lead in carries, while Fets Vainikolo, Josh Whippy, and Tim O’Malley are the leaders in meters gained while carrying. For NOLA Gold, JP Eloff, Zack Stryffeler, and Kane Thompson lead in carries, while Eloff, Tristan Blewett, and Con Foley lead in meters gained while carrying.

In terms of goal kicking accuracy, Tim O’Malley ranks 3rd in with 81.8% after slotting 9 of 11 kicks for 23 points. JP Eloff is 7th with 72.7% with 16 of 22 kicks and 37 points.

Squads with Player Article Links

Utah Warriors: 1 Franco Van den Berg 2 Logan Daniels 3 Angus Maclellan 4 Matt Jensen 5 Saia Uhila 6 Lance Williams 7 Ara Elkington 8 John Cullen (VC) 9 Johnny Ika 10 James Semple 11Fetu’u Vanikolo 12 Tim O’Malley (C)  13  Jeremy Misailegalu 14 Tonata Lauti 15 Josh Whippy 16 Blake Burdette 17 Huluhola Moungaloa 18 Jackson Kaka19 Kenny Scott  20 Alex Tucci 21 Nolan Tuamoheloa  22 Josh Anderson 23 Ian Luciano + Head Coach Alf Daniels

NOLA Gold: 1 Kevin Sullivan 2 Eric Howard (C) 3 Ben Tarr 4 William Waguespack 5 Billy Stewart 6 John Sullivan 7 Zack StryffelerKane Thompson 9 Holden Yungert 10 Scott Gale 11 Nick Feakes 12 Con Foley 13 Taylor Howden 14 Tristan Blewett 15 JP Eloff (C) 16 Matt Harmon 17 Cam Falcon 18 Mason Briant 19 Moni Tongauiha 20 Kevin O’Connor 21 Michael Baska 22 Bobby Johns 23 Shawn Riley

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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant