Houston SaberCats Lose Close Match to Uruguay

Houston SaberCats & Uruguay National Rugby Team

The Houston SaberCats faced a huge challenge as they met the Uruguay National Team, Los Teros, Saturday, January 20th at Constellation Field in Sugarland, Texas. Uruguay is currently ranked 18th in the world, just behind the United States. Grant Cole and Brett Mills provided commentary of the Los Teros v SaberCats rugby match on MixLr.

The Sabercats went toe-to-toe with Uruguay, losing 32-24 in their third pre-season match. With the loss, their record drops to 1-2 after previously defeating the Seattle Saracens 50-7 on Jan. 6 and losing in the final minutes to the Vancouver Ravens 26-23. They play James Bay next Saturday, while Uruguay travels to Vancouver to play Canada in an Americas Rugby Championship match, and also serves as the first of two Rugby World Cup 2019 Qualifier matches. The second is in Montevideo on Feb. 3.

Recap

Uruguay dominated the possession and field position in the first half, while having a tough time in the scrums. The lineouts throws by the SaberCats were a concern along with some mental errors that led to points. The SaberCats did have some excellent cover defense that created some key turnovers by Uruguay.

Uruguay took the early lead at the 10th minute as Santiago Arata slotted a penalty kick for a 3-0 lead. Four minutes later, Houston was penalized for diving over in the breakdown. This led to a kick to touch, a lineout at the SaberCats 22 meters and resulted in a Ignacio Dotti offload to Santiago Arata for a try that he then converted.

The restart surprised Los Teros as it went deep right into the hands of Malacchi Esdale, who sped in goal for a try with Zach Pangelinan converting to narrow the lead to 10-7.

Uruguay nearly extended the lead, however, an obstruction call against Arata allowed Houston to clear. The SaberCats could not take advantage as the lineout was not straight. The SaberCats were penalized soon after as Pago Haini was cited for being unbound and a Uruguay lineout from within 22 meters had Dotti taking the ball and Arata stepping inside for a try, that he then converted for a 17-7 lead.

Uruguay had another scoring opportunity thwarted with 7 minutes remaining in the half, as Los Teros attacked to within 8 meters of the line. Zach Pangelinan intercepted a pass and raced down the field for a highlight reel try. He then slotted the conversion to narrow the lead to 17-14.

Mental mistakes caused some problems for the SaberCats during the first half. With no time remaining in the half, Osea Kolinsau was penalized for leaving his feet at the breakdown. Arata added a penalty kick and Uruguay took a 20-14 lead into the break.

Second Half

Uruguay had the ball to begin the half, but the SaberCats created a turnover and cleared the ball. Uruguay created an overlap in the backs and led to a Nicholas Freitas run and an offload to Manuel Leindekar on the tackle for a try. Rodrigo Silva added the conversion increasing the lead to 25-14.

Off the restart, the SaberCats created a turnover, but a lineout by Houston was not straight. This continued to be a problem all match. Los Teros could not take advantage, as they knocked on for a scrum to Houston. The SaberCats scrum was dominant all match, as Dever had a strong drive resulting in a Uruguay penalty. Zach Pangelinan slotted the kick and drew Houston to within ten points, 27-17.

Uruguay has been a dangerous team in transition and was able to capitalize as Leandro Leivas offloaded inside to Diego Magno for a try and a 32-17 lead.

Pressure defense helped the Houston the entire match and led to a Carlos Pombo knock on when he was likely to score a try. Uruguay kept up the pressure and at the 77th minute, Jack Riley, who entered the match in the 73rd minute, was cited for a dangerous tackle and sent to the bin. Soon after Diego Magno also was sent to the bin for a dangerous tackle leaving both teams to complete the match with 14 players.

The SaberCats continued to play hard with their reserves in the match and Lindsey Stevens went over for a try in the 80th minute with Zach Pangelinan adding the conversion to narrow the final score to 32-24.

Conclusion

The Houston SaberCats had to be pleased with an 8 point loss to the 18th ranked team in the world in just their third pre-season match. Uruguay was known for their scrummaging prowess, yet the SaberCats dominated the scrums. Jamie Dever had an outstanding match in the front row.

The SaberCats maintained the discipline that they lacked the previous match and will need to work on handling errors and their lineouts. Their coverage defense continued to be a strength, although they were caught in transition by the Uruguay attack.

Uruguay had all they could handle tonight and it should help the team prepare for Canada next week. Canada will be sure to look at the match video and seek to exploit any weakness shown.

The SaberCats have a very strong core of players and have given Major League Rugby teams a glimpse of their capabilities. Houston should be proud of their team and look forward to the regular season. Before that, next Saturday the SaberCats will host James Bay.

Houston SaberCats: 1 Jamie Dever 2 Diego Maquieira  3 Adam Macklin 4 Robert Meeson 5 Charlie Hewitt 6 Kyle Sumsion (c) 7 Cecil Garber  8 Pago Haini 9 Connor Murphy 10 Sam Windsor 11 Josua Vici 12 Conor Mills 13 Osea Kolinisau 14 Malacchi Esdale 15 Zach Pangelinan 16 Lindsey Stevens  17 Jack Riley 18 Kenneth Hepburn 19  Justin Allen 20 Chris Parker  21 Chris Slater 22 Kieran Farmer 23 Dan Paul 24 Chris Milledge 25 Estevan Florez

Uruguay: 1 Mateo Sanguinetti 2 Germán Kessler 3 Mario Sagario 4 Ignacio Dotti 5 Diego Magno 6 Juan Manuel Gaminara (C) 7 Franco Lammana  8 Alejandro Nieto 9 Santiago Arata 10 Germán Albanell 11 Leandro Leivas 12 Joaquín Prada 13 Juan Manuel Cat 14 Gastón Mieres 15 Rodrigo Silva 16 Matías Benítez 17 Carlos Pombo 18 Juan Echeverría 19 Manuel Leindekar 20 Rodolfo Garese 21 Manuel Diana 22 Nicolás Freitas 23 Andrés Vilaseca

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