Rugby invitational wraps up with Kahuku defeating Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon vs. Kahuku, Rugby, Snow Canyon Invitational, St George, Utah, Feb. 27, 2016, | Photo by Kevin Luthy, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A red-and-white Kahuku High School flag snapped in the breeze, framed by the green of the Snow Canyon High rugby pitch and with Red Mountain in the background as the Hawaiian team defeated the Warriors 31-14 in the final game of the Snow Canyon Invitational on Saturday.

“I think it’s one of the best in the country,” Snow Canyon coach Mike Puriri said of the tournament which featured Kahuku, Snow Canyon, United out of Alpine, Utah; Red Mountain from Mesa, Ariz.; Orcas from Thousand Oaks, Calif. and Olympus from Salt Lake City.

None of the teams won all three of their games, perhaps demonstrating Puriri was right about the level of competition.

Although Kahuku’s team came the farthest, you couldn’t tell it based on the level of support. Drums sounded in support throughout the game and there was a sizeable cheering section. The other teams also had large cheering sections, but their fans could all drive to St. George. Kahuku’s fan base seemed to include Utah-based family and friends who didn’t need to fly from the Hawaiian Islands.

“We all learn from each other,” Puriri continued. “It was a well-balanced level of competition and the boys played well.”

Snow Canyon scored 1 1/2 minutes into the match, taking a 7-0 lead on Kody Jacobsen’s try and Dylan Parry’s conversion kick. Kahuku responded with a try and a drop goal to go ahead 10-7. Snow Canyon got its final lead of the game on Wade Holmstead’s try and Parry’s conversion kick. Kahuku got two more tries and conversions to lead 24-14 at the half.

The second half was a defensive affair with neither team doing anything until Kahuku got a try and conversion in the final minute.

In Snow Canyon’s first game of the day, a loss to the Orcas, Dallan Carlson had two tries while Cory O’Bray and Seth Rogers each had one.

Snow Canyon has the only high school rugby club in Washington County. The team competes in a league with Cedar, Canyon View and three teams from Las Vegas.

“We have a season coming up, a lot of rugby to play,” Puriri said. He noted the team will not play again until after the school district’s spring break March 7-11.

“We’re doing our best to grow rugby in this area,” Puriri said. He noted that the other schools have had clubs in the past, but have struggled with keeping a coach.