The league-leading NOLA Gold return home on Saturday to clash with the physical Utah Warriors squad at Gold Stadium.
The Gold (7-2, 38 points) sit atop the Major League Rugby standings entering Week 12. They will be led offensively by vice-captain and fullback JP Eloff, who leads the league in conversions (31) and is the second-leading scorer in the MLR (98 points).
Eloff will be helped by outside center Tristan Blewett, who is in second place in the MLR with seven tries this year. Zack Styffeler, who leads the Gold in tackles (146) also returns to the starting line-up.
Utah currently stands in eighth place in the league standings (1-5-1, 9 points). The Warriors will rely on the speed of their winger Tonata Lauti, who leads Utah with 554 meters carried and the defense of flanker Lance Williams who has a team-high 101 tackles.
Head coach Nate Osborne and scrum half Holden Yungert said they have a physical team, but the Gold’s open-style of attack can cause the Warriors problems.
“The biggest thing we need to do is aim up physically against these guys. They’re a big physical team and we need to match and beat their physicality and that should stead well for how we want to play this weekend. I think that the pace of the game that we play, a lot of teams can’t handle the sort of pace we play and that will be the same as Utah. So, if we can beat them physically through the middle, I think that the pace of our backs and our outside guys should be able to run in some tries this weekend,” Osborne said.
“We know Utah has a lot of heavy hitters, so our whole game plan this week is to play fast, play into our pattern, move them around the field get their big guys running and hopefully gassed out and that’ll open up a lot of channels for our faster guys to get around them,” Yungert said.
The Gold also return home after splitting the past two road games – a 35-31 win against Toronto last week and a 34-33 loss against Glendale the previous week.
“Being on the road for the past couple weeks, it takes a toll mentally on you, being on planes and in hotels. So, it’s good to sleep in our own beds and get up in the morning and be at home in front of our crowd, all cheering for us,” said Osborne.
“We’ve been playing out in cold areas and kind of freezing our butts off, but getting back to the swamp and into the heat is good and it’s always fun to play in front of the home crowd,” Yungert added.
Utah is fresh off a high-scoring 48-36 loss against the Seattle Seawolves and the Warriors are looking for their first win since they beat Austin Elite Rugby 17-9 in Week Two.
For Yungert and his team, however, they aren’t overlooking the Warriors this weekend.
“Every week we join up. We get a leadership meeting and then a players meeting. We talk about the standard we’re setting week in and week out, whether we kind of need to re-set that standard depending on how we’ve been going. Whether we’re staying true to the standard we’ve set, it’s just reminding guys about that,” Yungert said.
The Gold face the Utah Warriors this Saturday, April 13 at Gold Stadium at 2:00 p.m.
For tickets to the game click here.
If you can’t make it to the game, you can watch on CST or streaming on ESPN+.
Nola Gold Rugby proudly introduces Cory Brown as their new head coach.
The Gold proudly welcomes back our Captain America! Cam Dolan re-signs through