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East HS Upsets Herriman in Utah

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East HS Upsets Herriman in Utah

Papa Matelau scored two tries for East.

East HS upset Herriman 29-27 Saturday in Utah Youth Rugby's school league.

It was a good showing from East, who hit Herriman hard and fast and who also kept out of the penalty trouble that has sometimes plagued them.

"Just too many mistakes," said Herriman Head Coach Jeff Wilson. Wilson has been saying that his side hasn't been outside much this year and with no games for three weeks he felt they were undercooked. "We just need some practice and game time," he added.

The Mustangs scored first from a penalty goal and then scored in the corner to lead 8-0. But a kick that didn't find touch offered a counterattack chance for East, and they took it. Spencer Black took it in for East's first try, and with Jack Bateman's conversion, it was 8-7. 

With about five minutes remaining in the first half, Herriman attacked after an East HS penalty and scored to make it 15-7. But there was time remaining in the first period. Herriman knocked on the restart and from the ensuing scrum the East went to work, Matthew Frederick took it up with power, and Papa Matelau thundered over.

Matelau caused Herriman all kinds of problems and scored his second moments into the second half and with that East took the lead 17-15. Flyhalf Michael Fonua kicked deep and the East chase was solid, forcing a turnover and Matthew Fredrick picked up and was over to make it 24-15. 

Herriman responded with a try off a kick counterattack, and another after they executed a 50-22 and mauled it over. Now it was 27-24 for Herriman with time winding down.

The two teams battled on. East marched their way down to the Herriman line, and the Mustangs held on doggedly. They were penalized a few times and eventually repeated infringements resulted in a yellow card for Herriman. Still the Mustangs held on. Finally East's Bateman fed Sam Tuai, who passed to Naisa Puletau, and Pauletau sent a skip pass to Thomas Burnett for the try in the corner.

East had the lead 29-27, and after fielding the restart kicked to touch to end the game, giving East their first victory over Herriman since 2014 and the first home loss for the Mustangs in 13 years (meaning ever).

"It was a huge victory for the East program and hopefully one that will continue to build the team’s confidence moving forward," said Head Coach Robert Kingsford. 

For Herriman it was a harsh, but useful, lesson. Wilson said this week should be their first snow-free practice week.

"All credit to East," said Wilson. "They're a talented team, big and fast. They earned it but we also gave it away; it was a good game to learn from. We're green enough that half of our starters have never really had to compete in a game like that, so it was very good for them to get the experience of what you need to do to win those big games, and they'll be much more seasoned players if we see East in the playoffs."

"I’m not sure what the difference was," added Kingsford. "It was a tight match throughout. I said after the win against Brighton that that game would come back to help us later in the season. We had to come back from a deficit to win that match. Then the same thing happened against Highland, and we were able to overcome the deficit. We were down three for the final 18 minutes of the Herriman match. We didn’t panic, no one lost their composure."

It was a good team effort and Kingsford praised those who worked what he called the "hustle plays." 

"This is a special group," added the coach. "We saw that they were special from our time at the Ra Puriri tournament and they have proven it our over the weeks that have followed. We are excited to keep going to see what we can do."

Jaron Watson and MacRae Parker were good for Herriman and put their hand up, while Matelau was a gamechanger for East