Houston SaberCats Seize New Orleans Gold Doubloons in MLR Round 1

Houston SaberCats vs. New Orleans Gold

The Houston SaberCats hosted New Orleans Gold Rugby on Saturday, Feb. 24 at Constellation Field in Sugarland, Texas. This was 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. Both teams are still working on players implementing their system in preparation for the regular season.

Pre-season round one went to the SaberCats, as they emerged with a 30-12 win. Grant Cole and Brett Mills provided the match commentary for on MixLr.

With the win, the SaberCats record improved to 11-2, while New Orleans Gold Rugby Club suffered their first defeat and are 1-1.

Houston SaberCats vs. New Orleans Gold Rugby Club Recap

It was a thrilling match with the Houston SaberCats hosting the New Orleans Gold in the first meeting between Major League Rugby teams. The SaberCats took a 15-7 lead into the break and finished the night with a 30-12 victory.

This was a match that should have been seen in person or at least seen a stream to fully appreciate the fast pace of the match, the matchups, and to gain a better perspective of play. Instead, the only option was to listen to commentators Grant Cole and Brett Mills on Mixlr. They were outstanding, as always, however, at times it was difficult to really appreciate players creating space, the offloads, line breaks, and the defense, and the individual and team efforts.

This was still a pre-season match for both teams. Adjustments were made during the match, but teams are still working on implementing their systems.

First Half

The first scoring opportunity of the match went to the SaberCats after NOLA Gold’s John Sullivan played the ball on the ground. Sam Windsor’s penalty kick in the 2nd minute was wide. Soon after, Vince Jobo was penalized for leaving his feet and the SaberCats kicked for territory and attacked from a lineout. Referee Scott Green warned NOLA Gold captain Taylor Howden after a third penalty for players leaving their feet in the breakdown. The swirling wind again played havoc as Sam Windsor missed his second kick for points.

In the 13th minute, the SaberCats utilized excellent ball movement with multiple players handling the ball and a Sam Windsor offload to Osea Kolinisau resulted in a try for a 5-0 lead. Windsor’s kick from near touch was wide.

Houston’s blitz defense was causing some handling problems for NOLA Gold and a low pass to Moni Tongauiha was almost intercepted by Malacchi Esdale.

NOLA Gold’s Zach Stryffeler almost intercepted a pass, but after the referee consulted with the Assistant Referee, a penalty resulted for an intentional knock on. An interception would have resulted in a try. Instead, Sam Windsor slotted the kick increasing the lead to 8-0.

The SaberCats increased their lead to 15-0 after Alex Elkins exploited a gap on the wide channel and fended Sabastian Kalm. In support, Malacchi Esdale finished the attack with a try and Sam Windsor slotted his first kick from touch.

New Orleans Gold then had a sustained attack with Eric Howard getting to within meters from the line. An ensuing maul was then held up in-goal, however, there was a penalty advantage in play. NOLA Gold opted to kick for points, but Taylor Howden’s kick was wide and resulted in a 22-meter drop for the SaberCats.

JoJo Tikoisuva caught the Windsor drop and was quickly driven into touch by Josua Vici. Both teams then had some back and forth play.

NOLA Gold would get their first try in the 36th minute. Adam Macklin was penalized for unbinding during a NOLA Gold scrum. Howden kicked to touch and resulted in a lineout 10-meters out. Kalm picked and the SaberCats collapsed the maul. Then a Myles McQuone offload to Vince Jobo resulted in a try. JP Eloff converted and it was 15-7 and would continue through the break.

Second Half

Sam Windsor kicked to begin the second half and Myles McQuone secured the ball before John Sullivan took the ball into contact. The SaberCats were penalized for leaving their feet and this resulted in a NOLA Gold lineout 15 meters out. The SaberCats defense held and a scoring opportunity was lost.

The first score of the half came after a New Orleans Gold scrum. Kalm went into contact, but Hubert Buydens was stripped of the ball by Conor Mills. After a SaberCats scrum collapsed, Connor Murphy took the quick tap off the penalty at midfield and Malacchi Esdale cut back and motored in for a try and a 20-7 lead.

The SaberCats increased the lead to 23-7 as Windsor slotted a penalty for the GOLD being offsides.

NOLA Gold went through multiple phases with Ratu Rinakama driven into touch just prior to grounding the ball by Alex Elkins.  Eric Howard then picked up a loose ball after the SaberCats 5-meter lineout and dove in for a try. The conversion was missed by Eloff, but the lead was narrowed to 23-12.

NOLA Gold attacked from the restart as Rinakama caught the ball and was tackled immediately by Elkins. Moni Tongauiha broke several tackles and Melvin DeSouza was taken into touch.

After an attack by the SaberCats, NOLA Gold had another sustained attack with a Howden run and Bobby Johns advancing the ball to within 5-meters. Forwards picks ensued from Matt Wirken, Derrek Van Klein, and Matt Hughston, but the ball was held-up in-goal. The SaberCats overcome this assault.

The SaberCats would get one more try in the 76th minute. Windsor used quick hands after a scrum to get the ball wide to Elkins, who broke a tackle. Murphy chipped ahead and Sam WIndsor took the ball on the chip and chase in for a try. Windsor converted and the score was 30-12.

Neither side could add points in the final minutes, so the Houston SaberCats claimed the round one pre-season win over New Orleans Gold Rugby Club. Pre-season round two will be in New Orleans on March 24. NOLA Gold will be looking to get back their doubloons.


Prior to the match, the speculation about matchups was a media topic. For the NOLA Gold, it was their second pre-season match. Nikola Bursic, a lock, was on Americas Rugby Championship duty with Chile and. Hubert Buydens had just returned from playing for Canada.

In the forwards, the scrum edge went to the SaberCats, while neither team had an edge in the lineouts. The NOLA Gold was able to make some adjustments and moved the ball through the scrum channels quicker during the second half. The back rows from both teams were constantly involved in tackles and in lines of attack.

The SaberCats were able to move the ball wide during the match and early in the match caused some concern for NOLA Gold with their pressure blitz defense. In the second half, NOLA Gold had more sustained attacks with some crash balls by the centers, and moving the ball wide.

The SaberCats will feel good about the win, but the NOLA Gold will make adjustments and some additional matches will help their play.

Next Saturday, the SaberCats host the Ontario Arrows in their final pre-season home match at 7 pm at Constellation Field. A 4 pm match between Texas A&M and the LSU Tigers, will precede the match.Their remaining two pre-season matches will be away against New Orleans Gold and the San Diego Legion.

New Orleans Gold will travel to meet the Glendale Raptors, as the Raptors open their MLR pre-season.

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

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