Joan Shepherd
John Cullen, pictured, Mate Moeakiola and Thretton Palamo all played for the USA Eagles last month.

With more than 60 players turning out for practices this autumn, coach Haloti Liava’a scheduled a match against Boise State University on Nov. 1 to give his newer players game time experience. Unfortunately for Liava’a, he was not able to attend the match as he had open heart surgery the week before the game. He is now recovering, regaining his strength, and plans to still be directing the Utes this spring.

Coached by Danny Christensen, Tonata Lauti and Spencer Vickery, the Utes downed Boise State 50-14 in a match played in gusty winds and descending temperatures. Utah’s forwards looked good as they controlled the set play from the start, pushing the Broncos off the mark and taking their lineouts. The Utes took a 31-0 lead, led 31-14 at the half, and changed their entire lineup for the second period.

Utah’s forwards were not huge, but big enough and very mobile. The backs demonstrated excellent speed and ball handling. Strong matches were played by Sam Croft (front row), Jesse Afuvai (number eight), John Hayes (front row), Addison Bates (wing), Brook Sine (center), Alex Alba (flanker) and Will Frantz (flanker).

Three Utes play for U.S. National Team during busy November

The United States Eagles opened a four-match fall tour when they hosted the New Zealand All Blacks on Nov. 1 before a sold-out stadium in Chicago. Twenty-three players suited up for the United States. Former Ute Mate Moeakiola was one of them, named as a reserve prop. John Cullen and Thretton Palamo were not selected for this match.

The Eagles hustled throughout the match, and their tackling was good, but they were still overwhelmed by the All Blacks 74-6. The game demonstrated the huge disparity between the United State and New Zealand. Twenty-two minutes into the match it was 12-6 All Blacks. It was all downhill from that point onward.

After flying to Europe, the Eagles took on Romania in Bucharest on Nov. 8. Both John Cullen and Moeakiola suited up as reserves. The U.S. rebounded with a 27-17 victory, outplaying their opponents out wide and in the kicking game and leading 17-3 at the half. Adam Siddall connected on three conversions and one penalty goal.

The Eagles (ranked 16th in the world) moved on to England to play Tonga on Nov. 15 where Thretton Palamo joined the team and played at center. Cullen also started at second row. The U.S. came out strong as Tim Stanfill scored at wing and the forwards pushed across another try to trail by just 14-12 at the half. The second period was all Tonga’s however as it bulldozed the Eagles, winning by a final 40-12 score.

The final tour match was played in France on Nov. 22 against Fiji, and all three former Utes started for the Eagles. The U.S. played well but came out on the short end of a 20-14 score after trailing 15-0 at the half. Rugby Today reported that Palamo led the Eagle attack with hard-charging runs and is likely to be one of the centers playimg for the United States’ World Cup side in the fall of 2015.

BYU, Utah in the national rankings

The 15s season will start for real for Utah and the California sides in January. “Goff Rugby Report” ranked Life first in its latest poll, followed by BYU, California, St. Mary’s and Arkansas State. Rugby Today, posted before the ACRC Bowl Series on Nov. 19, had BYU ranked first followed by California, St. Mary’s, Life and Arkansas State. Utah had been dropped to 15th.

Utes go 10-5 during fall sevens season

The University of Utah concluded its fall season with the Pac 7s on Nov. 7-8 at Berkeley, California. On Saturday, playing in Pool B, the Utes beat Colorado 22-5 (Casey Raymond had two tries and Alex Alba and Taylor Thomas one), Washington State 21-0 (Thomas, John Kacinski, Keoni Hamala), and Oregon 39-0 (Kacinski 3, Alba, Phil Hinson, Thomas, Chad Gough, with Gough adding four conversions), before dropping a 19-10 decision to UCLA.

California dominated Pool A, defeating Stanford 41-0, Oregon State 31-0, Arizona State 36-5 and Arizona 39-0. This put Utah against the nationally top-ranked Golden Bears in the semi-finals on Sunday and California was simply too much as it won 34-0. The Golden Bears went on to win the Pac championship 45-5 over Arizona State. Utah played UCLA for third place and lost in the last second of play 26-19 (Hamali, Gabe Ruflin and Hinson scored tries and Gough had a pair of conversions).

The Utes concluded their fall sevens with a 10-5 record and ranked 14th in the nation in sevens competiton, their losses coming to nationally ranked California (twice), UCLA (twice), and Arizona State.

Utah's spring schedule

The University of Utah announced its spring schedule for 2015 15s play. The Utes open against St. Mary’s in California on Jan. 10 and then play in a Pac North mini-tournament with Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State. There will be three home matches in Salt Lake City in March. The annual Wasatch Cup match against BYU will be played on a Friday night.

Jan. 10 — St. Mary’s in Moraga, California

Jan. 16-17 — Pac North tournament in Eugene, Oregon

Jan. 23 — BYU in St. George

Jan. 30 — Red Rock Tournament in Mesquite, Nevada

Feb. 7 — UCLA in Los Angeles

Feb. 14 — Las Vegas 7’s tournament

Feb. 28 — California in Berkeley, Colorado

March 7 — Arizona in St. George

March 13 — St. Mary’s in Salt Lake City

March 14 — Oregon State in Salt Lake City

March 20 — BYU in Salt Lake City

March 28 — Arizona State in St. George

April 4 — First Round of Varsity Cup (TBD)

Utah Rugby Football Club welcomes donations

The Ute ruggers have an ambitious spring schedule that includes a lot of traveling. Players’ dues must cover most of this, but any donations are greatly welcomed. If you wish to help support the team, you can donate through the Utah RFC page on Facebook or LinkedIn, or click on the following link. Any amount helps!

Park City Haggis undefeated in fall season

Park City concluded its autumn season with a friendly against Idaho State University in Pocatello on Nov. 8. Haggis ran all over the Bengals 102-43 as the defense was not on the docket for either side. Some former Utes who made the trip north included the timeless Robert Lopez, Alan Flandro, Vili Kotobalavu, Don Pati and Tom Nielsen. Park City will begin the second half of its Rocky Mountain campaign with a home match against Aspen on March 8.

Eagle sevens

There was no international sevens play in the month of November. The next HSBC tournament will be played in Dubai on Dec. 4-6. The United States will face Kenya, England and Australia in pool play.