The Red Mountain U19 rugby club defeated TRYBE Rugby 19-15 Saturday during a preseason tournament in Snow Canyon, Utah.
TRYBE is the new name for what used to be Highland Rugby, the multiple national champions.
Having just started training, TRYBE were a tad rusty, but Red Mountain was also very impressive, holding Highland to just 15 points and getting tries from Brent Hakes, Peni Pulotu and Peter Weber.
The victory was a big step forward for the unbeaten Red Mountain side, whose improvement, said assistant coach Jeff McIntyre, comes down to a combination of things.
"We have a lot of really committed players, and while last year we kind of relied on a couple of superstars, this year we have more of an even team effort," McIntyre said. "We've also improved our coaching, emphasizing the basics, such as protecting possession and defense. Our defense was very much improved in this game."
Pulotu, especially, was a solid performer, putting in a series of good games this weekend from the flanker position. Hakes and Weber also showed well, with Hakes recording 23 points.
On Friday Red Mountain beat a combined Snow Canyon/United team 24-0, and Saturday morning, they tied Snow Canyon 17-17.
The loss was still a bit of a shock to TRYBE. New name or not, they are the same players and (mostly) the same coaches as Highland, the HS Club champs of 2011. The program will not import players from overseas the way Highland did, and with the number of clubs in Utah expanding, they are now drawing from a smaller area.
Still, the program is strong, and expects, according to assistant Jeramy Evans, to continue to improve. They will need to, as United and Snow Canyon also look very strong.