The Utah Islanders opened their new DII club league season with a thrilling 31-30 defeat of the Glendale Raptors DII team in Glendale.
The Islanders are a new team out of Utah, and because of the at-times shaky history of club rugby in that state, will not be eligible for the playoffs. The Islanders have to play a probation season to show they will fulfill fixtures and be competitive.
They took a huge step in proving that by traveling to Colorado and winning.
Not that it was all smooth sailing. The Islanders made the trip with just two reserves, and injuries slammed them as they had to play shorthanded at the end of the first half, and finished the final 20 minutes with only 13 players on the field.
Forward Savavau Sione led the team with two tries, while Langiana Mahe had an outstanding game in the backs.
“We managed to pull through,” said Lofi Fuatogi, who has moved to Utah from Hawaii, where he was instrumental in the club game there, and is helping to run the Islanders.
The Islanders ran out to a 19-10 halftime lead and then, understandably, just held on.
“It was a well-deserved victory,” said Fuatogi.
Glendale drops to 4-1 in a tough league that also has the Denver Harlequins pushing to be top.
Utah starts 1-0, but even if they run the table, won’t move on to the playoffs this year. The situation does not sit well with the Islanders members, who feel they are paying for the missteps of other clubs. But if they can continue to play well and bolster their numbers, they will be a force for some years.