HERRIMAN — Another thrilling comeback bid by the Utah Warriors came up just short on Saturday, with the visiting Toronto Arrows escaping Zions Bank Stadium with a 27-24 win.
Down 27-10 with just ten minutes remaining on the game clock, the Warriors appeared dead in the water before staging a thrilling comeback bid that came up just short of the try line during the game’s final possession.
“We know we’re always going to battle until the end. That’s just how we are,” said Warriors fullback Connor Burns. “Everyone has that grind in them to keep going until the last whistle…we just came up a bit short this time.”
Burns topped off Utah’s scoring on Saturday around the 75th minute of the match, crossing the try line to bring the team back to an improbable 3-point deficit with time winding down. Two minutes earlier saw Warrior fly half Cliven Loubser make a beautiful cut upfield to score a try on a long run, suddenly putting the game within reach at 27-17.
Had the game lasted even five minutes longer, the result could have very well gone Utah’s way, given the massive momentum swing which was maintained until the game’s final whistle. That whistle came with the Warriors fighting furiously to get across the try line just a few meters away from taking the improbable comeback win.
But the last possession ended with a determined turnover by the officials, ending the match with the visiting Arrows proving to have just enough to fend off the comeback bid.
The comeback became necessary due to a slow start by the Warriors on top of some critical errors made in the second half.
“We weren’t able to quite execute what we wanted in the first half,” said Warriors center Calvin Whiting. “Just silly errors that we can fix. Overall I think we’re still in a good spot…We just need to keep our heads up and move on to the next one.”
Toronto scored first on Saturday, taking the ball across the try line after 12 minutes of play for an early 7-0 lead. A penalty kick from Loubser cut that lead to 7-3 during the game’s 22nd minute before a try by Warriors MVP Mikey Te’o gave the home team a 10-7 lead entering the half. Lance Williams was key on Te’o’s try, making an aggressive turnover that led to a turnover and in turn, Te’o’s try.
But whatever momentum Utah had at the break quickie dissipated shortly thereafter.
The visiting Arrows snatched back momentum quickly, scoring a try just two minutes after the half, and then another one seven minutes after that to take a commanding 24-10 lead. Utah then had a possession come up just short with multiple infractions during scrum situations deep in Toronto’s end, which in turn led to critical penalty kick by the Arrows on the next possession, extending the lead to 27-10.
But true to form, the Warriors didn’t come close to packing it in at the point, making a strong push late to almost come away with the win.
While the loss was frustrating, players remain encouraged by the team’s overall progress, mindful that they can fix the mistakes that did them in on Saturday.
“Obviously the boys are a bit down now, but we lick our wounds and learn from this process,” Whiting said. “We’ll be able to learn a lot, not only as a team, but individually as well. It came down to the fact that a lot of us kept letting them play (their game) while not capitalizing on how we play and doing what we do best.”
With the loss Utah falls to 2-4 on the season and will look to rebound next Saturday with a home match versus the Houston Sabercats. Toronto improves to 3-3 on the season with the win.
Brandon Gurney is the Utah Warriors Team Reporter. With nearly two decades of experience covering BYU Football in print and on radio, Gurney brings a wealth of experience to the Utah Warriors beat. You can read all of Gurney’s stories on the Utah Warriors throughout the 2022 Season at www.warriorsrugby.com