Houston SaberCats Edge NYAC Rugby

Houston SaberCats vs. NYAC Rugby

The Houston SaberCats defeated New York Athletic Club Rugby (NYAC) 39-38 on Saturday, Feb. 17 at Constellation Field in Sugarland, Texas. The match was a thrilling one executed at a fast pace. Grant Cole and Brett Mills provided both pre-match and match commentary for on MixLr and the broadcast is available on Mixlr.

With the win the Houston SaberCats have a 10-2 record and will face New Orleans Gold in the first match between two Major League Rugby teams next Saturday at home.

The match against NYAC was designated as First Responders Night with all First Responders obtaining a 20% discount on tickets. In additions to tailgating, pre-match autograph signings by players, and a live DJ, the game ball was delivered by helicopter by PHI Air Medical.

Houston SaberCats v NYAC Rugby Recap

The Houston SaberCats faced the USA Club Division 1 National Runners-up in NYAC, with ten members of that squad on the pitch. Teams always need to play with whom is available and when players are missing, others often step up. NYAC was missing three players from their National Club Finals in Nate Brakeley, who was playing against Chile in the Americas Rugby Championship. Chris Matina is currently playing with the Eagles 7s, and Al McFarland, another Eagle was not available.

The Houston SaberCats took a 33-17 lead into the break and held off NYAC to win 39-38. This bodes well for Major League Rugby in 2019, as a number of NYAC players will likely be playing for United Rugby New York.

For Houston, it was their 12th match of the pre-season, while for NYAC it was the first of the year since the FAll. SaberCats Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick employs a 50-30 rotation of players, where a number of the players coming in during the second half will start the following week. This keeps the players fresh and creates a team with significant experience. The players who enter the second half with fresh legs, often can break a game wide open.

First Half

NYAC’s Harry Bennett kicked to open the match and Cecil Garber gathered the ball for the initial SaberCats attack. Both teams then tested each other with probing kicks. NYAC then went on a sustained attack with Josua Vici taking NYAC wing tackling Charles Guiraud inside the SaberCats 22-meters, losing the ball forward.

After a quick attack by Houston, NYAC cycled the ball through, Walsh, McKellar, Bennett, before Pat Coleman was tackled and Matt Trouville was penalized for being off his feet in the breakdown. This penalty led to Harry Bennett slotting a penalty kick for a 3-0 lead in the 4th minute.

The restart by Pangelinan went to Brian McKellar and quickly Jack Fitzpatrick motored to midfield. A Matt Trouville intercept, however created a scoring opportunity by the SaberCats as Connor Murphy kicked ahead and Josua Vici chased, but the ball went through in-goal for a NYAC 22-meter drop.

Bennett kicked the ball deep to Murphy and Vici moved the ball to midfield. Osea Kolinisau Broke deep into NYAC territory and offloaded to Sam Windsor for the first try of the night. Zach Pangelinan slotted the conversion and the SaberCats had a 7-3 lead, one that although tested throughout the match, would be one that was not relinguished.

Rob Meeson claimed the restart and Conor Mills, Josua Vici advanced the ball before Murphy grubbed the ball forward. A penalty advantage was being played, but if Pat Coleman didn’t fall on the ball, the SaberCats would have added a try.

The SaberCats Charlie Hewitt grabbed the lineout ball and Houston drove before the maul was taken down and NYAC was penalized. The ensuing SaberCats lineout, resutled in an obstruction call, thwarting their attack. Bennett cleared and NYAC escaped the pressure.

After a NYAC penalty, Connor Murphy took a quick tap and went in for an apparent try, however the referee iindicated that captain Kyle Sumsion had indicated that the SAberCats would go for the posts, prior to the tap. Zach Pangelinan’s kick was pushed wiide right, resulting in a NYAC 22-meter drop. After a high tackle on Conor Mills, a second Pangelinan kick was missed.

Houston would score soon after after Cecil Garber drove over Greg Voigt and Diego Maquieira initiated the ball wide to Pangelinan for a try and a conversion, increasing the lead to 14-3.

The SaberCats proved that they had the dominant scrum, with Paul Mullen being a force at tighthead prop. The SaberCats had a NYAC scrum on their back foot and Mike Webb dropped the ball at the back, and Connor Murphy picked up the loose ball and darted in for a try. Pangelinan then converted and the lead was 21-3.

The restart went to Matt Trouville, who offloaded to Kyle Sumsion. harry Bennett stripped the ball and went in for a try, which he then converted to narrow the lead to 21-10.

On the restart Josua Vici showed how dangerous a player he is, leaping high and taking the restart with one hand. Paul Mullen then drove over the NYAC 22-meters and Ross Deacon was penalized for being offsides. It wasn’t the night for Pangelinan penalty kicks, as his third one was missed.

The SaberCats would not be denied, as Osea Kolinisau broke a tackle by james Denise and offloaded inside to Vici for a try. He could have easily scored himself or passed to Conor Mills, who also was supporting the play. Pangelinan kicking proved to be an issue, as the conversion went wide.

NYAC attacked after Paul Mullen was penalized for driving up in the scrum. Bennett kicked for touch and from the ensuing lineout 10-meters out, Anthony Parry took and drove. The SaberCats were penalized for leaving their feet and after a 5-meter lineout, Pat Colemen drove and Kirkland Hamilton finished with a try, converted by Bennett f=to narrow the lead to 26-17.

The restart by Pangelinan did not go 10 meters, so instead of a scrum at midfield, NYAC elected a lineout. Matt Trouville stole the ball and Josua Vici finished with a try. Connor Murphy then took over for Pangelinan and slotted the conversion, increasing the lead to 33-17.

NYAC would have the last attack before the break, with Connor Murphy being penalized for a dangerous tackle on Quentin Pradere. After the penalty, Houston recovered the ball and kicked into touch to end the half.

Second Half

The Saber Kittens provided some halftime action throwing T-shirts to the fans. That was a minor distraction with the otrrid pace of the first half.

Connor Murphy kicked the restart to begin the second half and the high ball was gathered by pat Coleman. NYAC drives by Gethin Davies and Anthony Parry began the attack. The ball then went wide to fullback Jack Fitpatrick, before the ball to Grag Voigt, went forward for a Houston scrum.

The SaberCats drove and held the ball, as NYAC was penalized. The SaberCats could not take advantage of the attack and after some back and forth, the next sustained attack went to NYAC.

Off a NYAC lineout, Davies caught and Ryan McTiernan went into contact. The ball went wide to Charles Guiraud, who was tackled 4 meters from the line from Malacchi Esdale, who motored across the pitch for a try saving tackle. Seamus Kelly then was held up in-goal by Diego Maquieira, resulting in a 5-meter NYAC scrum. Anthony Parry crossed the line and was also held up. The third scrum resulted however, in an Parry try and Bennett conversion narrowing the score to 33-24 at the 50th minute.

Five minutes later, a penalty kick by Sam Windsor, increased the lead to 36-24. Windsor would have another attempt shortly after, but that time the ball was wide. Houston changed their match strategy in taking points when they were presented. Previously, the team would kick for territory and try to score tries off lineouts.

Houston replacements had begun entering the match a short time earlier. First Justin Allen, and then Chauntez Jackson entered and soon after Jake Turnbull and Chris Coyle would make their MLR debut, with Pago Haini and Dan Paul also entering.

NYAC took advantage of a tackle by Coyle, who was penalized for not releasing at the breakdown. NYAC attacked to within 5-meters of the line with multiple players involved before Pago Haini was issued a yellow card. Seamus Kelly then ran a slant in for a try. After Bennett’s conversion, the match was within reach for NYAC at 36-31.

With about four minutes remaining in the match, Justin Allen tapped the ball back from a NYAC lineout. The SaberCats moved the ball side to side before Stuart Williamson was penalized for not rolling away at the breakdown. The SaberCats elected to kick for points with Sam Windsor slotting a massive 53-55 meter kick to increase the lead to 39-31 in the 77th minute.

Cecil Garber gathered the restart for the SaberCats, however lost the ball forward, giving NYAC the ball. Marcus Stump Walsh picked up the loose ball and Ross Deacon went into contact and Justin Allen was penalized for hands in. Bennett kicked to touch for a NYAC lineout 10-meters from the line. This ultimately resulted in an Anthony Parry try and Bennett was again accurate all night, as the lead was 39-38 with 30 seconds remaining.

The teams were all even as Pago Haini returned from the bin. The restart went to Ross Deacon and Jake Turnbull was penalized for leaving his feet in the breakdown. NYAC kicked to touch for a lineout and went for the win. The SaberCats focused at the right time and stole the ball. Connor Murphy then kicked into touch to secure the 39-38 victory.


The match was a thrilling one, which is what Major League Rugby will want during the regular season. It was well contested by both teams, was fast paced, had hard hitting action, and led to an offensive show for the fans.

Osea Kolinisau was named the Texas Mattress makers Man of the Match, however Sam Windsor could have easily won honors.

The SaberCats showed be pleased with their set play, dominating in the scrums and holding their own in the lineouts. The team exhibited a more conservative approach in the match, electing to go for points when the opportunities presented. Their backs continue to be an offensive threat.

For NYAC, Pat Coleman appeared as a man possessed, being at the breakdowns and being a tackling force. James Denise and Ross Deacon also were strong tacklers. Harry Bennett was the field general and points leader for NYAC. Anthony Parry, Charles Guiraud, and Seamus Kelly also had strong performances.

This was a night for NYAC to contend, and it bodes well for Rugby United New York in the future, as a number of NYAC players are expected to be on the MLR roster.

The Houston SaberCats received a much needed test and they well benefit by this competition. Next week the SaberCats will face their first Major League Rugby team, the New Orleans Gold. These two teams have been the only MLR teams to play a a pre-season match.

New Orleans Gold defeated the Capital Rugby Union Selects 68-15 on January 20. The SaberCats also faced the Capital Selects on Feb. 3, winning 49-3 with many of their reserves in a starting role for the first half.

The match against NOLA Gold will be on Feb. 24 at 7 pm at Constellation Field.

Houston SaberCats Pre-Season Record

Houston SaberCats 2018 Major League Rugby Schedule

  • April 21 vs New Orleans Gold 7 pm
  • April 28 vs Austin Elite 7 pm
  • May 5 at San Diego Legion 7 pm
  • May 19 at New Orleans Gold 7 pm
  • May 26 vs. Utah Warriors 7 pm
  • June 2 vs. Seattle Seawolves 7 pm
  • June 9 at Glendale Raptors 7 pm
  • June 23 at utah Warriors 7 pm

Houston SaberCats & NYAC Squads

Houston SaberCats: 1 Adam Macklin 2 Diego Maquieira 3 Paul Mullen 4 Charlie Hewitt 5 Robert Meeson 6 Kyle Sumsion (C) 7 Cecil Garber  8 Matt Trouville 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 Jake Turnbull 18 Chauntez Jackson 19 Justin Allen 20 Chris Parker 21 Chris Coyle 22 Chris Slater 23 Kieran Farmer 24 Dan Paul 25 Pago Haini

NYAC: 1 Kirkland Hamilton 2 Anthony Parry 3 Brian McKellar 4 Gethin Davies 5 Pat Coleman 6 Ross Deacon 7 James Denise 8 Mike Webb 9 Marcus Stump Walsh 10 Harry Bennett 11 Charles Guiraud 12 Quentin Pradere 13 Seamus Kelly 14 Greg Voigt 15 Jack Fitzpatrick 16 John Santiago 17 Adam Zeich 18 Brandon Wynne 19 Ryan McTiernan 20 Sean Beuche 21 Stuart Williamson 22 David Snead 23 Joe Kelly

Other Articles

DJCoil Rugby articles are also available on Facebook. Other Social Media sites to follow or subscribe include Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube for interviews.

About Author

North American Rugby News With A USA Slant