Major League Rugby Preview: Houston SaberCats vs. Austin Elite Rugby

 Houston SaberCats & Austin Elite Battle of Texas

The Houston SaberCats host Austin Elite Rugby in the ‘Battle of Texas’ on Saturday, April 28 at Dyer Stadium at 2:30 pm CDT. This will be the only Major League Rugby meeting between the teams this season.

The Houston SaberCats opened the MLR season last Saturday, losing 35-26 to New Orleans Gold, while Austin Elite Rugby lost 41-26 to the Glendale Raptors.

Houston SaberCats Upcoming Event

The Houston SaberCats Academy is holding a Rugby Skills Camp for males and females on May 12 from Noon to 5 pm at Rhodes Stadium, 1733 Katy Fort Bend Rd., Katy, TX. The cost is $50 and the coaching staff will include Justin Fitzpatrick, Osea Kolinisau, Charlie Hewitt and other SaberCats players.

Houston SaberCats

The Houston SaberCats will be looking for its first major League Rugby win this Saturday against Austin Elite Rugby, home at Dyer Stadium.

Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick has made four changes to the squad from last week’s opening season loss to New Orleans Gold. Three of the changes are in the forwards with Estevan Florez, Justin Allen, and Chris Coyle getting their first start of the Major league Rugby season at prop, lock, and flanker, respectively. Malacchi Esdale will also start at inside center.

In the reserves, there are also three changes. Jack Riley, Pago Haini, and new signing Joey Iosefa are on the squad at prop/hooker, back row, and at center, respectively. Iosefa played football for the University of Hawaii and then was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, before moving to the New England Patriots at fullback. In high school, he played rugby at Fagaitua High School in American Samoa.

The SaberCats have one of the better scrummaging teams and are very mobile in defense and to the breakdown. The team looks to utilize quick ball moving it wide to take advantage of one of the League more prolific try scorers in Josua Vici. Alex Elkins is also a powerful threat in the wing.

The backs utilize sniper Connor Murphy at scrumhalf to set the tone along with flyhalf Sam Windsor. Conor Mills is like a second flyhalf at inside center, which is trending today in rugby. Malacchi Esdale has played outside center in addition to his normal slot on the wing. He has blazing speed and can contest for the high ball. Rounding out the backs is Osea Kolinisau, who switched from outside center to fullback. Kolinisau is an Olympian and a magician in distributing the ball.

The front row will include Estevan Florez, Lindsey Stevens, and Adam Macklin with Charlie Hewitt and Justin Allen the locks and captain Kyle Sumsion, Chris Coyle and Matt Trouville the back rows. The tight five will be looked to control the scrums, with the back three to attack and to break away to pressure the defense. The forwards also have a height advantage in the lineouts and only need to throw the ball on target.

The reserves have seen plenty of rugby action is their extensive pre-season or were starters last week (Meeson & Garber). The only exception is Joey Iosefa, who when he enters, will be his first rugby action of the season.

Austin Elite Rugby

Head Coach Alain Hyardet has made three changes from the team’s loss last Saturday to the Glendale Raptors. The team hopes that the three tries that they scored in the second half will translate into a fast start against the SaberCats.

Ross Deacon, who played with Rugby United New York will get his first start at the back row. He is joined by former RUNY teammate, Marcus Walsh at scrumhalf, with both having played professionally in Ireland. Sione Fangaiuiha will also start at wing.

The team has also added another professional who played with Munster A, 7s, U18,19 & the 20s, and at UCC (University College Cork) in center Ned Hodson.

The forwards will include a front row of Chris Schade, Michael Brown, and Mason Pedersen, with locks Ben Mitchell and Victor Comptat. The back row includes Kyle Breytenbach, Ross Deacon, and last week’s team’s Man of the Match, Hanco Germishuys. Both Schade and Pedersen played professionally in the U.S. in 2016, while Michael Brown played with Rugby United New York. Mitchell and Comptat played professionally in Ireland and in France, respectively. Breytenbach is an experienced player from South Africa, joined at flanker by Deacon. Germishuys is an Eagle and is also from South Africa.

In the backs, Walsh will pair with Timothee Guillimin from France at flyhalf. The Centers include an experienced professional and Eagle in captain Andrew Suniula. He pairs with Sani Taylor, who is a versatile back. The back three include standouts at both the college and club level in Fangaiuiha, Czarnecki, and Mizell.

In the reserves are forwards David LeMasters at hooker, Siaosi Finau, and Robert Drummond at prop, USA Men’s Eagles all-time caps leader Todd Clever, and Pita Naruma at flanker. Backs include Knute O’Donnell at scrumhalf, Alex Faiso-Donahoe at wing, and Ned Hodson at center.

Houston SaberCats & Austin Elite Rugby Squads

Houston SaberCats: 1 Estevan Florez 2 Lindsey Stevens  3 Adam Macklin 4 Charlie Hewitt 5 Justin Allen 6 Kyle Sumsion (C) 7 Chris Coyle 8 Matt Trouville 9 Connor Murphy 10 Sam Windsor 11 Alex Elkins 12 Conor Mills 13 Malacchi Esdale14 Josua Vici 15 Osea Kolinisau 16 Diego Maquierira 17  Kenneth Hepburn 18 Jack Riley 19 Robert Meeson 20 Pago Haini 21 Cecil Garber 22 Dan Paul  23 Joey Iosefa + Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick

Austin Elite: 1 Chris Schade 2 Mike Brown 3 Mason Pedersen 4 Ben Mitchell 5 Victor Comptat 6 Kyle Breytenbach 7 Ross Deacon 8 Hanco Germishuys 9 Marcus Walsh 10 Timothée Guillimin 11Sione Fangaiuiha 12 Andrew Suniula 13 Sani Taylor 14 Reece Czarnecki 15 Zac Mizell 16 David LeMasters 17 Siaosi Finau 18 Robert Drummond 19 Todd Clever 20 Ned Hodson 21 Knute O’Donnell 22 Alex Faison-Donahoe 23 Pita Naruma  + Head Coach Alain Hyardet

Houston SaberCats Pre-Season Record (12-2-2)

Houston SaberCats 2018 Major League Rugby Schedule

  • April 21 vs New Orleans Gold (L 35-26) Preview
  • April 28 vs Austin Elite Preview 2:30 pm CDT Network: AT&T
  • May 4 at San Diego Legion 7:30 pm CDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
  • May 19 at New Orleans Gold Noon CDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
  • May 26 vs. Utah Warriors 5 pm CDT Network: AT&T
  • June 2 vs. Seattle Seawolves 8 pm CDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
  • June 8 at Glendale Raptors 8 pm CDT Network: AT&T
  • June 23 at Utah Warriors 2 pm CDT Network: AT&T
  • June 30 MLR Semi-Finals at Glendale Sat, 6 PM – 11 pm CDT Network: CBSSN
  • July 7 MLR Championship at San Diego 8-10:45 pm CDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)

Austin Elite Rugby Pre-season Schedule

Austin Elite Rugby 2018 Major League Rugby Schedule

  • April 21 at Glendale Raptors (L 41-26) Preview CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
  • April 28 at Houston SaberCats Preview 2:30 pm CDT Network: AT&T
  • May 3 vs. New Orleans Gold 8 pm CDT Network: AT&T
  • May 11 at Utah Warriors 8 pm CDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
  • May 25 v. San Diego Legion 8 pm CDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
  • June 1 vs. Utah Warriors 8 pm CDT Network: AT&T
  • June 9 vs. Seattle Seawolves 8 pm CDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
  • June 17 at San Diego Legion 7 pm CDT Local Network: Cox/AT&T

Other Articles

DJCoil Rugby articles by Doug Coil 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