Utah Latest: Herriman, West Valley Win
Utah Latest: Herriman, West Valley Win
Herriman held onto its top 5 ranking with a defeat of #9 Snow Canyon Saturday in Utah Youth Rugby action.
Snow Canyon made the 4-hour drive to Herriman on Saturday in what had all the makings of a classic. Although the teams are no strangers to each other in the postseason, this was the first time they had met in the regular season since 2015 (won by Snow Canyon) and the first time they had met in any capacity since the 2016 State championship game (won by Herriman).
Both teams have had good starts to the season and were eager to test themselves against one another. Snow Canyon would look to continue to rely heavily on stars Andy Day and Wyatt Perry, and it was Day who pinned Herriman deep on the kickoff. Snow Canyon is an excellent open field tackling team, and opponents often find themselves backed up from their kicking game because of this. Herriman tried a pick and go game to slow things down early, but knocked the ball on after a few phases. Snow Canyon went to work with an effective pick and go game of their own, taking the ball so low they were almost diving forward meter by meter. The Mustang defense would tighten up and clear, but Day made a long break down inside the Herriman 5 and Snow Canyon was knocking on the door again. The defense held tight, and a thundering tackle by Maea Leakehe on an inserting fullback gave the ball back to Herriman long enough for brother Isi Leakehe to clear once again. With the Herriman defense bunched a little too much around the ruck, Snow Canyon attempted to swing the ball wide. An errant pass went off the hands through the centers, however, and HSAA Taysan Hammer scooped it up and was off to the races, 70 meters down the sideline for a 7-0 lead.
Snow Canyon would shortly gain possession from the restart, but an errant pass in to touch gave Herriman an attacking lineout and nice go forward from Hammer and company in to opposing territory. Snow Canyon would get the ball back off of a scrum from a Herriman knock on, but sophomore blindside Ngana Leakehe would rip the ball from the wing’s hands and set up a Herriman scrum 20 meters out. Older brother Isi would deftly fake to a crashing center, and split the gap created in the defense to race uncontested for a center try and a 14-0 lead.
Snow Canyon got their first points on the board with a penalty following the restart, perfectly slotted by day to cut the deficit to 14-3. Herriman would come charging back with smart counterattacking from Connor Hyde, and a big break from 8-man Fisher Jackson. Hooker Carson Connors crossed the try line for an apparent score, but was held up. Shortly after, though, a Snow Canyon penalty made way for a quick tap from Gavin Flint to Ngana Leakehe, who powered over for the score.
Anyone leaving the stands for a snack, or perhaps a bathroom break, likely missed the next score, as it came almost right away. One phase from the restart saw the ball out to the waiting hands of Hammer, who made an outside break and ran about 20 meters before drawing in the fullback and hitting a streaking Hyde at pace for a spectacular try to give the home team a commanding 28-3 lead heading in to halftime.
Herriman turned the ball over deep in Snow Canyon territory, and the visitors used a booming kick to flip the field position and then applied constant offensive pressure, but the Herriman defense held for nearly 5 minutes before forcing a penalty and gaining a free kick, which they cleared. Jake Barker spoiled the lineout throw, however his tap down bounced wildly on the turf, and when the near wing desperately tried to bat it back in to play, it bounced right in to the arms of lock Troy Webb, who raced in for Snow Canyon’s first try. Day added a nifty sideline conversion to cut the lead to 28-10. Snow Canyon added another score with yet another favorable bounce, as a box kick ahead by Perry checked up and bounced backward on the turf, in to the arms of covering wing Sampson Bloomfield. The ball was spun out wide to the other side of the field, where a surprised Herriman defense had yet to get all the way back, and in to the hands of reserve center Doug Dillard. At 28-17, this was threatening to become a much different game – but Herriman made sure the comeback was stopped as quickly as it had started. The Mustangs nearly scored right away as Jake Barker took the ball in the air from the restart and Ngana Leakehe provided go forward from a crash. Isi Leakehe made a break and found brother Maea for an apparent try, but it was determined to be held up by Snow Canyon. A sloppy pass from a quick tap turned the ball over, but the Warriors committed a penalty to turn the ball back over. Herriman was away for a try near the try line off of a great offload from Flint, but a knock on took away a second opportunity down close. Snow Canyon was caught infringing at the scrum, however, and the 3rd time was the charm for Herriman, as reserve prop Viliami Tonga would not be denied, powering through several Snow Canyon defenders for a converted try to go on top 35-17.
Snow Canyon’s attempts to continue to use the kicking game were well countered by Herriman’s back 3, and the Mustangs kept possession and kept offensive pressure on for the next 10 minutes of the game, keeping the ball on the attacking half and just missing 2 more scores. Snow Canyon forced a knock on on a Herriman player going in to score, and Alec Perschon made a huge break on a 60 meter run but got tackled at the 5 meter line and even though he was not held down, he was called for not releasing the ball before he got back up to score the now disallowed try. Webb was yellow carded for a tripping attempt at the beginning of the run, but advantage had been long gained by the time Perschon was tracked down, so the turnover stood. The teams would trade efforts back and forth for the next 5 minutes until Snow Canyon was able to penetrate deep in to the Herriman end with the help of several penalties. Many of the Herriman reserves were now in and holding strong on defense to clear to midfield. The official let the teams know that the scrum they packed down for would be the last possession before the final whistle, and perhaps sensing the urgency Snow Canyon made a long break that almost scored on its own, before finally reaching across from the breakdown to end the game 35-22.
The rest of the day would end in Herriman’s favor as well, as the 9/10 and 7/8 teams completed the sweep of Snow Canyon. The two programs, friendly rivals who have a great amount of respect for one another, enjoyed a well-earned feast together following each game provided by the Herriman parents.
Snow Canyon returns home to face longtime rival United this week, while Herriman is off for Spring Break before traveling to face East on April 13th.
Meanwhile, in a clash of ranked club teams, the West Valley Warriors defeated West Jordan 38-22.
West Valley returns only two starters from their 2017 state champion team, but the Warriors are a deep program. Flyhalf Polite Bo Tupou was excellent and vice captain William Lokotui (just ranked among the top hookers in the nation), has been excellent. No. 8 Unaloto Pututau was the team's MVP while Hunter Lotulelei and Vilaketi Broomfield have set the tone up front. New starters Mosese Sonasi has been a force at inside center.
With West Jordan having previously beaten ranked team Genesis, so this was an impressive result for West Valley.