On an overcast Saturday afternoon, Herriman (11th ranked Single-School program) took on United (5th ranked Club program) in Alpine, UT. In a hard-hitting and high-scoring affair, Herriman came away with a 41-28 victory.
Herriman showed their intention to play wide and fast right from the opening kickoff. After stealing the ball from United, Herriman immediately swung it wide then back again before center Francis Bernard put in a deft chip kick over the United backs. The ball was well taken by the United fullback and their forwards were able to secure possession. After a few phases, the United forwards knocked the ball on giving Herriman a scrum. A sloppy pass off the scrum put the Herriman backs under pressure, but United was pinged for off-sides.
Flyhalf Moliki Mulitalo took the tap and weaved his way through the United defense for a twenty-meter run. The ball went wide, but a mishandled pass gave the ball back to United with a right-hand scrum deep in their territory. The Herriman pack was able to put the United scrum under pressure and forced a poor pass from the United scrumhalf. The United flyhalf was unable to handle the pass and Herriman looked primed to put the first points of the game on the board with a 5-meter scrum.
No. 8 Jeremy Hinton picked off the back of the following scrum. The Herriman forwards effectively rucked over and the ball was sent wide. On a nifty loop then skip pass, the ball reached wing Canyon Hansen who was stopped just short of the line. Herriman swung the ball back to the left-side of the field and had a clear overlap. This opportunity was squandered by not skipping the ball wide and an easy try was lost. Luckily, a penalty was called on United for diving over in the ruck and Herriman retained possession five meters out from the United try line. Scrumhalf Jordan Drage tapped the ball and passed to the charging Herriman forwards. After four phases of tight forward play, Drage spun the ball to Mulitalo who made a clever fake pass and slipped through the United defense and dove over for the first try of the game. The conversion was slotted by the always consistent fullback and placekicker Conner Hoff and the score stood at 7-0.
United’s drop kicker was a bit overzealous on the restart and kicked the ball out of the back of the try zone which gave Herriman a scrum at midfield. Hinton picked off the back of the scrum and, being tackled by the United scrumhalf, off-loaded to Drage who expertly drew the United defender and spun the ball wide to Hansen. Hansen made an excellent thirty meter break and was eventually dragged down. With the United defense in disarray, a United flanker came into the ruck illegally from the side and a penalty was awarded to Herriman. The ball was kicked into touch and Herriman had a lineout ten meters away from United’s try line. The Herriman pack took the throw-in and immediately set up a solid maul. The United forwards, under severe pressure, illegally collapsed the Mustang maul. With all the United forwards occupied in the collapsed maul, Drage threw a pass to Mulitalo who, seeing a clear mismatch, side-stepped his defender and went over for his second try of the game. Hoff would convert the try putting the score at 14-0 in favor of Herriman.
On the ensuing kick-off, United’s forwards did a great job of holding up the Herriman ball carrier and winning a scrum put-in. Off the scrum, United kept the ball tight in the forwards and a high tackle was called on flanker Connor Dickerson after sustained United pressure. United then took a quick tap, but the swarming Herriman defense was led by loosehead prop Billy Ward who made a thumping tackle and then immediately got back on his feet and contested for possession. The United forwards were too slow in supporting their ball carrier and they were penalized for not releasing the ball in the tackle.
Mulitalo kicked for touch and off the lineout Hinton had a rampaging thirty meter run through the heart of the United defense. Despite being on their back foot, United effectively scrambled and forced a knock-on by the Herriman backs. A great scoring opportunity again was wasted by the Mustangs.
On the ensuing scrum, United’s speedy back-side wing inserted into the line and took the pass from the scrumhalf. Unprepared for this wrinkle, the Herriman loose forwards were too slow in responding and United’s wing made a huge forty meter break before being taken down by Dickerson & Hoff. United then spun the ball wide from right to left. The open-side wing sidestepped the Mustang defense and was bundled into touch only a few feet from the line by the supporting Herriman defense.
On the ensuing lineout, Herriman went to the back jumper, but United’s eightman expertly stole the throw-in. The United forwards immediately set up a maul. The maul was pushed over the try line, but Herriman’s forwards were able to prevent United from grounding the ball and a 5-meter scrum was awarded to Herriman. With loose footing, Hinton picked off the back of the scrum, slipped, and knocked the ball on.
On the following United scrum, Herriman’s defense pushed back the United attack. The Mustangs, however, were called for off-sides and United’s eightman took the quick tap and advantage of the lazy Mustang defense and dove over for United’s first try of the game. They would convert the conversion kick and draw to within 7 points of Herriman, 14-7.
United mishandled the ensuing kick-off and ceded possession back to the Mustangs. After a sustained attack down the left-side of the field, the ball was swung right and center Brandon Jensen took the Mulitalo pass and sprinted past the United defense to score again for Herriman. The Hoff conversion attempt was wide left putting the score at 19-7 for Herriman.
Herriman let the ball bounce on the following kick-off and the ball rolled out-of-bounds twenty meters from their line. Off the lineout, Herriman unwisely attempted to run out of their own end and stiff United defense forced a turnover on the Mustangs’ line. Extremely poor tight defense by Herriman allowed United’s eightman to pick and dive over the try line untouched for his second try of the game. The try was converted and the score stood at 19-14.
Herriman continued to shoot themselves in the foot as the kick-off didn’t go ten meters awarding a scrum to United at mid-field. United would capitalize and spun the ball wide. Terrible Mustang tackling and hard running by United’s wing saw them over for their third try of the game. The try was converted pushing the score to 19-21 in favor of United.
After both sides exchanged multiple kicks, United battered Herriman tight with their forward pack. This softened up the Mustang defense and United was able to suck in the Mustang defense and get the ball to their outside center who deftly side-stepped a Herriman back and put in another try for United. At this point, United was flying high and Herriman was in deep trouble after giving up three straight tries in the space of ten minutes. The conversion was good and the score was now 19-28 for United.
Before the end of the first half, Herriman’s defense forced a United knock-on. Off the scrum, Herriman threatened to score in the corner but the United defense held strong and pushed Hansen out of bounds, ending the first half.
After a spirited halftime speech by Coach Wilson challenging the Mustangs to play to their ability, Herriman came out firing. Wing Thad Hay made a deep break into United territory. After sustained Mustang pressure, Bernard took a Drage pass off a ruck, side-stepped his opposing center, and raced forty meters for a much needed Herriman try right under the posts. Hoff would convert Bernard’s try closing the gap with United to two points.
Herriman continued to hurt themselves and knocked on the ensuing kick-off. United pressured Herriman deep in the Mustang half, but the stellar defense of lock Devin Rasmussen and reserve flanker Tyler Chapman energized the Mustangs. United decided to attempt a chip kick over the Herriman defense, but the kick went too far and rolled over the dead ball line, giving Herriman a scrum thirty meters from their own try line. The United pack, the best scrimmaging team Herriman has faced all year, proceeded to steal the scrum the Mustangs. The United eightman caused further headaches for the Mustangs and ran the ball all the way to the Mustang try line, but a United penalty in the ruck let the Mustangs of the hook.
A Mustang knock-on gave the ball back to United and they attempted to insert the back-side wing again off the scrum. Chapman and Mulitalo weren’t fooled at all and they laid a brutal two-man tackle on the wing and forced a knock-on.
The next fifteen minutes were marked by both sides jockeying for field position with the majority of the time spent in United’s half of the field. The only big highlight of this part of the game was a massive (and legal) hit by reserve wing Sialao Mobley. Mobley’s physical presence was instrumental in the second half for the Mustangs.
Midway through the second half, the Herriman attack finally found a seam in the United defense. Deep in the Mustang end of the field, the Herriman backs worked a pretty loop that froze the United backline and allowed Bernard to put Mobley through the gap out wide. Mobley proceeded to run thirty meters before skillfully popping the pass back inside to a supporting Bernard. Bernard ran an additional twenty meters before launching a wide pass to Drage right before he was tackled. United, in disarray on defense, gave up an off-sides penalty. Herriman opted to go for points and Bernard calmly slotted the thirty meter penalty kick to put Herriman ahead 29-28.
Herriman had the momentum at this point and off the kick-off put together multiple excellent phases in both the forwards and backs that put serious pressure on United. Excellent runs from reserve forward Kalisi Moli and reserve center Vuni Bloomfield helped Herriman march deep into United’s half. A knock-on stopped the Mustang attack but it was obvious that Herriman was playing with a newfound confidence.
On the ensuing scrum, Herriman’s forwards demolished the United scrum, forcing a turnover. The United wing, scrambling in defense, laid a tackle that was deemed to high by the referee and Herriman opted to kick for touch. Five meters out from the line there was little doubt that Herriman was going to attempt the maul. With their confidence up and adrenaline running high, the Herriman forwards expertly mauled the ball across the line where it was dotted down by Dickerson. The tough sideline conversion wasn’t converted by Bernard and the score was now 34-28 for Herriman.
United wasn’t done yet and forced a turnover on the kick-off. After some hard running inside from their forwards, United was at the try line and threatening to score. Again, it was Chapman who rose to the occasion and laid a vicious hit on a pick-and-go by a United forward, forcing the turnover and relieving the United pressure.
Herriman kicked the ball to mid-field off the proceeding scrum, but the Mustangs didn't find touch. United attempted to keep the ball tight with their forwards, but were continually dumped back into their ruck by the much improved tight defense by the Mustang forwards. United abandoned this tactic and attempted to work the ball wide, but great defense by Ward and Chapman allowed Dickerson to strip the ball from the United ball carrier. The ball was popped to Moli who used all of his 250 pounds to run over a United back and expertly off-load to Mulitalo who swung the ball wide to Hay. Hay turned on the jets and sprinted fifty meters for the final Herriman score. Reserve prop Irvin Medina converted the try for the final points of the day, pushing the score to 41-28.
It was a solid win for the Mustangs after last week’s loss to Snow Canyon. Both teams now look to finish the regular season on a winning note this week in preparation for the Utah state play-offs which start on May 3rd and Nationals later in May.