Lehi UT— The much anticipated rematch of the 2016 Grand Final took to stage over the weekend at Nui Field, in Lehi Utah during a perfect sunny and 70 degree unusual fall weather. No other team wanted this rematch more than the Misfits Brother did against their Salt Lake County rivals, the Salt Lake Spartans.
Going into the finals the Misfits Brother draped in green and gold were at the top of the table while their opponents in red and black followed in second. Both sides had a record of 5-1 with points scored determining who took the drivers seat in the playoffs. The Spartans prided themselves with experience and reputation while the Misfits Brothers brought with them agility and a young hungry side. This match was one worthy of an audience much grander than what the pitch had to offer, but that didn’t deter these teams from bringing both their “A” games.
If anyone would ask the Misfits Brothers how bad they wanted this rematch, the response was perfectly put by their loose forward Ray Havea “we’ve had this monkey on our shoulders for a long long time, and we wanted it gone”. The first half of the grand final gave the impression that that monkey wasnt going anywhere with the Spartans putting two unconverted and unanswered tries on the board, one by lock Tito Sua in the first minute, and another in the 9th minute by outside center and former Tonga International, Sione Fonua. After the 18th minute the Spartans would extend their lead to 13 points to zero after a penalty goal by inside center Tavite Makaafi. The only immediate response from the Misfits Brothers there after were two penalty kicks by their inside center Nua Kautai, bringing them within a converted try of their opponents. With 5 minutes left on the clock, the Misfits Brothers finally crossed the try line with for an unconverted try to their flanker and Tonga 7s international Faka’anaua Kaloni. The end of the first half saw the Spartans leading 13-11 while their opponents seemed to be reorienting for what may lay ahead of them in the next 40 minutes.
The second half commenced with both teams making their first substitutions of the final, this time the Misfits Brothers draw first blood and is awarded the first converted try of the second half, to yet again their flanker Faka’anaua Kaloni. The Brothers would for the first time take the lead in the match and never looked back from there. It was as if that try set their intentions and wheels in motion till the end and rattled that monkey on their shoulders leaving it to hang on for dear life. More reinforcements we’re sent on by both sides to defend their lead or to get ahead of the game. Spirits were high, the hard hits didn’t stop, the busting runs were turned up a notch, and the defense only intensified the game more for both spectators and the players. Then in the 60th minute, finally a sigh of relief breaks through for the men in green and gold, as their fierce leader George Makoni, out of retirement trucks four Spartans defenders for a 15 meter converted try and extended his men’s lead even further to 25 to 13 points. Speaking to Makoni he said “It didn’t feel like I had left the rugby pitch at all, I wanted to give something to my brothers to lift their spirits and it came in the form of a try”. And that is exactly what Makoni’s try did, the Brothers would capitalize on the lead and cross the try line with three more converted tries to Youngie Pongi, Sioeli Lasalosi and Faka’anaua Kaloni for a hat-trick for the final whistle and earning him “Mo Bettahs Man of the Match”. The Spartans didn’t let up and crossed the line once in the second half, only to have their attempts overshadowed by the consecutive tries from their opponents that sealed their fate to become the new champions of the MPD and bearers of the Iosepa Shield.
The awards ceremony showed a display of true sportsmanship between two great finalists. The Spartans congratulated their opponents in true gentlemen like fashion leaving everything on the field and giving credit where credit is due when all is said and done. “The Misfits Brothers played a really good game, they knew what it would take to play us and they executed it well” said Spartans captain Efiafi Fekitoa. There to give the awards for the finals was founder of NUI social Darren Olayan also a former rugby player and had this to say “The amount of energy both these teams expressed on the field was some of the best I have yet to see first hand, it’s great to have been part of this sport and competition on this level as well”.
The display of talent in the final was unprecedented. “It’s exciting to see the local players showcase their talent and push for opportunities beyond the amateur game” said Kimball Kjar General Manager of Rugby Utah and Utah Warriors. “We’re excited to and appreciative that the Men’s Premier Division is growing as strong as it is here in the state of Utah” he added. The Men’s Premier Division was put in place for the very purpose expressed by Kjar and Saturday really showcased that with two of Utah’s best teams playing for bragging rights within the state.
Misfits Brothers 44
Tries: Faka’anaua Kaloni(3), George Makoni(1), Youngie Pongi(1), Sioeli Lasalosi(1)
Conversions: Samiu Muna(5)
Penalty: Nua Kautai(2)
Salt Lake Spartans 18
Tries: Tito Sua(2), Sione Fonua(1)
Penalty: Tavite Makaafi(1)