Houston SaberCats Face New Orleans Gold in First MLR Battle

Houston SaberCats vs. New Orleans Gold

The Houston SaberCats host New Orleans Gold Rugby on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7 pm CST at Constellation Field in Sugarland, Texas. This will be the first match between Major League Rugby teams and will be a preview of the opening regular season match on April 21 between these teams.

Last Saturday the Houston SaberCats defeated New York Athletic Club Rugby (NYAC) 39-38. The SaberCats took a 33-17 lead into the break and NYAC came back in the second half to make the match a thrilling one.  Grant Cole and Brett Mills continues to provide match commentary for on MixLr.

The Houston SaberCats enter the match against the New Orleans Gold with a 10-2 record, while NOLA Gold has a 1-0 record after a 68-15 win on January 20 against the Capital Rugby Union Selects. 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 is designated as Education Night with Educators obtaining a 20% discount on tickets.

Houston SaberCats

The Houston SaberCats continue their 50/30 rotation system as Lindsey Stevens and Justin Allen will start at hooker and lock, respectively with Diego Maquieira and Charlie Hewitt as replacements. Alex Elkins will debut for the SaberCats at wing with Malacchi Esdale moving to outside center and Osea Kolinisau to fullback.

Elkins was announced as an addition to the team last week in a Facebook live broadcast between SaberCats head coach Justin Fitzpatrick and Grant Cole.

Both teams are playing with 25 man squads to have the opportunity to see as many players as possible in the pre-season. The reserves include Kenneth “Petey” Hepburn, who returns to the squad after a minor injury, Jake Turnbull, and Chauntez Jackson at prop. Diego Maquieira is a hooker, Charlie Hewitt at lock, Chris Parker and Chris Coyle in the back row, Chris Slater at wing or scrumhalf, and Dan Paul at center, wing, or fullback.

SaberCats prop Jamie Dever is still nursing an injury and when he returns, the team will have additional depth in the front row, with Estevan Florez and Jack Riley also in the mix. Back row player Pago Haini and flyhalf Kieran Farmer have also have extensive playing time during the pre-season. Some additional players have also been made available to local clubs to gain the valuable playing time that is needed to contribute to the team.

Although the SaberCats may not need introductions, the front row includes Adam Macklin, who played for Ulster, Lindsey “Skeeter” Stevens at hooker, who played for Eastern Suburbs in the Shute Shield, and Paul Mullen a former Munster and USA age grade player, who also played locally for HARC and for Galveston. The lock s are Rob Meeson, who played professionally for the Sacramento Express and Justin Allen, who played in Ireland for Southend and was a USA U20 player. The back row consists of professional players Cecil Garber (San Diego Breakers) and Eagle Kyle Sumsion (Sacramento Express), with Eagle Matt Trouville at No. 8.

The halfbacks have a spark plug in Connor Murphy, who played with the London Irish, teaming with Sam Windsor, who played for Ulster. Conor Mills is like a second flyhalf at center, having played for the HS and Jr. All-Americans and locally for HARC and Lone Star. Malacchi Esdale usually plays wing, but gets his first start at outside center. he previously played for the Orlando Griffins. At one wing is new addition Alex Elkins, who was one of the leading try scorers for the Ohio Aviators. The other wing and fullback are former Fiji 7s team players in the powerful and fast wing, Josua Vici and the crafty play maker and Olympian, Osea Kolinisau.

In the forward reserves, Diego Maquieira played hooker for Mystic River and in college for Northeastern. Peter Hepburn was a Jamaica 7s players and also played for HARC and HURT. Jake Turnbull played professionally at prop for the Denver Stampede, and also played for Eastern Suburbs and the USA Selects. Charlie Hewitt played lock for the Worcester Warriors, the Exeter Chiefs and for the London Scottish. Chris Parker, a former USA All-American played with the Austin Blacks and Chris Coyle played with the ACT Brumbies 7s. Rounding out the forwards is former University of Houston football player Chauntez Jackson.

The backs reserves includes Zach Pangelinan, who has been the regular starter at fullback. He is an Eagle, has played with OMBAC, as well as with Randwick in the Shute Shield. Dan Paul is a versatile player, who played with BYU and the West Houston Lions. Chris Slater, a wing or scrumhalf, has played with James Bay and the Woodlands.

New Orleans Gold

The New Orleans Gold train at the Westbank Athletic Club and practice at Gretna Park. The team officially opened their training camp on January 3 and 17 days later had their first pre-season match against the Capital Rugby Union Selects, winning 68-15.

The team has officially has listed 21 players on their roster, however a number of other players have been training with the team since opening camp. On jan. 20 against the Capital Selects, Matt Wirken, Melvin Desouza, and Joey Sok were on the 23 man squad as replacements. This week, Wirken and Desouza are reserves, as well as Alec Janotka, Todd Dupre and new addition, John Stapleton.  Some of these players and others, may see action with the New Orleans Rugby Football Club D2 team. Look for team player announcements soon.

New Orleans Gold has two changes in their starting XV from the match against the Capital Selects. Hubert Buydens has returned from Canada National team Americas Rugby Championship duties and will be at loosehead prop. Ben Tarr switches to his familiar tighthead prop position, with Cameron Falcon moving to the reserves. Nikola Bursic at lock, is still involved with the ARC playing for Chile, so Myles McQuone gains his first start with the team.

The front row for NOLA Gold includes two Canada national team players in Hubert Buydens and Eric Howard. Ben Tarr is an Eagle. Locks Myles McQuone was captain for the National Champion Fairfiled Yankeess and John Sullivan, played for Mystic River. In the backrow, Vince Jobo played Super Rugby with the Free State Cheetahs, Matt Hughston played professionally with the Ohio Aviators, as did No. 8 Sebastian Kalm.

In the backs, scrumahlf Holden Yungert played for the USA Selects and is paired with Taylor Howden, another Ohio Aviator at flyhalf. The Aviators connection continues with both Zack Stryffeler and Eagle JP Eloff, also having played with the team. Moni Tongauiha played with Life West and the USA Islanders at center. JoJo Tikioisuva rounds out the starting XV at wing. He played professionally with the Sacramento Express and most recently with Metropolis RFC.

The reserves include Derrek Van Klein, who also played for the Ohio Aviators and club rugby for james Bay and Metropolis. Cam Falcon played for the Sacramento Express, the Wellington Lions, as well as New Orleans RFC. Reserve locks include Matt Wirken and William Waguespack. Wirken played for the Kansas City Blues and at Lindenwood University, while Waguespack played with New Orleans RFC and UL-Lafayette.  Todd Dupre at backrow also played locally with New Orleans RFC and with LSU. Alec Janotka played hooker last week for New Orleans RFC and has played previously with Scioto Valley and Notre Dame College.

Backs reserves include scrumhalf Michael Baska, an All-American 7s player from Lindenwood and Arkansas State. Bobby Johns is a center, who has led New Orleans RFC for many years. Melvin DeSouza is a wing, who played with Metropolis and in college with Minnesota State – Mankato. John Stapleton played most recently with Cincinnati RFC, but also has played with West Harbour in the Sydney Shute Shield.

NOLA Gold has proved to be a formidable team against the Capital Rugby Union Selects, using pressure defense, a powerful scrum, and looked to move the the ball quickly to attack. The match was an early one for the team, so handling errors should be sorted out in practice.

Match Keys

Houston has had a dominant scrum and has their lineouts have improved the last few weeks. The later is important as the team has a height advantage over several teams, including NOLA Gold. New Orleans Gold also has a good pack and some excellent jumpers, so look for both teams to test each other early.

The match is expected to be a fast paced one with both teams having speed and power in the outside channels. Center crashes will keep the teams honest. Both teams will employ a pressure defense, but with the quality of players on both teams, I don’t expect a low scoring match.

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

New Orleans Gold Pre-Season

New Orleans Gold 2018 Major League Rugby Schedule

  • April 21 At Houston Sabercats 7 pm CT
  • May 5/6 At Austin Elite
  • May 12/13 Home vs. Seattle Seawolves
  • May 19 Home vs. Houston SaberCats 6 pm CT
  • May 25 At Seattle Seawolves
  • June 2/3 Home vs. Glendale Raptors
  • June 9/10 Home vs. San Diego Legion
  • June 16 At Utah Warriors 8 pm MT

Houston SaberCats & New Orleans Gold Squads

Houston SaberCats: 1 Adam Macklin 2 Lindsey Stevens  3 Paul Mullen 4 Robert Meeson 5 Justin Allen 6 Kyle Sumsion (C) 7 Cecil Garber 8 Matt Trouville 9 Connor Murphy 10 Sam Windsor 11 Josua Vici 12 Conor Mills 13 Malacchi Esdale 14 Alex Elkins15 Osea Kolinisau 16 Diego Maquieira17 Kenneth Hepburn 18 Jake Turnbull 19 Charlie Hewitt  20 Chris Parker 21 Chris Coyle 22 Chris Slater 23 Zach Pangelinan 24 Dan Paul 25 Chauntez Jackson + Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick

New Orleans Gold: 1 Hubert Buydens 2 Eric Howard (VC) 3 Ben Tarr 4 Myles McQuone 5 John Sullivan 6 Vince Jobo 7 Matt Hughston 8 Sebastian Kalm 9 Holden Yungert 10 Taylor Howden (C) 11 Joeli Tikoisuva 12 Zack Stryffler 13 Tesimoni Tongauiha 14 Ratu Rinakama 15 JP Eloff 16 Derrek Van Klein 17 Cameron Falcon 18 Matt Wirken 19 William Waguespack 20 Bobby Johns 21 Michael Baska 22 Melvin Desouza 23 Alec Janotka 24 John Stapleton 25 Todd Dupre + Head Coach Nate Osborne

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