RUNY get hot in snowy Utah.
Rugby United New York, or RUNY as they have been known to be called, isn’t a typical expansion team. The franchise, led by former U.S. men’s national rugby coach Mike Tolkin, got off to a blazing start in its first five matches, all on the road.
The latest victims were the Utah Warriors.
Connor Wallace-Sims and Mark O’Keeffe each scored two tries, and first-year Rugby United New York ran away with a 47-21 rout Friday night over the host Utah Warriors in front of 1,145 fans at the snow-covered Zions Bank Stadium.
John Cullen scored two tries for Utah (1-3-1, 7 points) and Josh Anderson added a score for the Warriors, who lost back-to-back matches for the first time in the new season.
“They’re probably one of the best attacking teams in the competition,” Utah coach Alf Daniels said. “We knew that, we expected that, and we prepared for it. But we didn’t show up for it. By halftime, the game was done. We just didn’t play.”
O’Keeffe broke away for a 70-yard sprint that put United up 14-0 early amid the bracing snowstorm in Herriman.
Jimmy Denise gave New York (4-1-0, 18 points) a 21-0 lead, and Wallace-Sims dotted the corner with his second try of the night with eight minutes left in the half to give the expansion club a fast start as it sought to cruise to a 26-0 lead at the break.
The Warriors answered right before halftime, though.
Angus McClellan sprinted inside the five-meter line, and Cullen punched it over the line with a diving try in the 40th minute to prevent the first-half shutout.
But the highlights were few for Utah, which fell to 1-3-1 in Major League Rugby’s second season, without a win since the season opener at Austin Elite. New York held against a quick breakaway from Utah out of the break, then held a scrum inside the five-meter line to kill off momentum in the first 10 minutes of the match.
Joshua Anderson pulled one back for the Warriors in the 67th minute, weaving through traffic on an ankle-breaking run for a full-field try. That pulled the hosts within 40-14 with just over 10 minutes to go.
By the time O’Keffee slid through the snow underneath the visiting team’s uprights with three minutes remaining, United was sliding out of the frozen tundra with a big road win that propelled New York into playoff position midway through its first season.
New York has taken four wins from five games to open the 2019 season — all away from home. United’s home opener is next Friday, March 15 against fellow expansion side Toronto Arrows. Kickoff at MCU Park on Coney Island is scheduled for 5 p.m. MST on ESPN+.
Nate Brakeley – 16 made tackles
Mark O’Keeffe – 183 carry meters average of 26 meters a carry, 2 tries
Connor Wallace-Sims – 3 tackle breaks, 2 line breaks and 93 carry meters. 2 tries now has 4 total (tied for 2nd most in the league)
Ben Foden – 343 kicking meters
Forwards – 100% scrum and lineout retention
Team – 59% territory, 53% possession
8’ NY: Connor Wallace-Simmons try (Mattina conversion kick)
10’ NY: Mark O’Keeffe try (Mattina conversion kick)
26’ NY: Jimmy Denise try (Mattina conversion kick)
33’ NY: Connor Wallace-Sims try (kick failed)
40’ UT: John Cullen try (O’Malley kick)
Halftime: New York 26-7
59’ NY: Matt Hughston penalty try
64’ NY: Trevor Cassidy try (Mattina conversion kicked)
67’ UT: Joshua Anderson try (O’Malley kick)
78’ NY: Mark O’Keeffe try (Mattina conversion kick)
80’+ UT: John Cullen try (O’Malley kick)
Written in collaboration with Sean Walker of KSL Utah
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