San Diego Legion & Houston SaberCats
The San Diego Legion beat the Houston SaberCats 35-32 in the 83rd minute at Torero Stadium on Friday, May 4 in the Major League Rugby ‘Game of the Week’.
The match was a high paced one of attacking rugby with teams taking advantage of mistakes. After the Houston SaberCats jumped out to a 10-0 lead, the San Diego Legion countered to take a narrow 21-20 lead at the break. The seesaw battle continued during the second half, with the Legion taking advantage of a SaberCats lineout throw that was not straight and then controlling the ball through phases for six minutes to take the win into death.
The Houston SaberCats scored the first try after a Connor Murphy chip and an Alex Elkins drive into contact. Osea Kolinisau then scored after the breakdown. Sam Windsor then slotted the first of many kicks to take a 7-0 lead.
Two minutes later, Windsor extended the lead to 10-0 after CC Mahoni was in front of a box kick by Nate Augspurger.
The Legion answered back after a JP Du Plessis break and an Augspurger offload to Anthony Salaber resulted in a try. Dylan Audsley then converted to cut the lead to 10-7. Soon after Salaber added a second try and Audsley converted to give the Legion its first lead 14-10.
It was the SaberCats turn to attack as Kolinisau stepped and Taku Ngwenya made a try-saving tackle on Zach Pangelinan. The Legion was offsides and Windsor slotted the kick to cut the score to 14-13.
The SaberCats then reclaimed the lead, after a Matt Trouville offload to Alex Elkins drew in defenders. A quick pass by Connor Murphy to Sam Windsor resulted in a try, which was then converted by Windsor for a 20-14 lead.
San Diego attacked from a lineout and drove from a maul with Augspurger going blind and Ryan Matyas finding a gap. JP Du Plessis continued the attack and Dylan Audsley finished with a try and a conversion to retake a 21-20 lead, which held up at the break.
In the first half, both teams played expansive attacking rugby. The SaberCats had an edge in the scrums, while the Legion’s Cam Dolan was a disruptive force in the lineouts.
It took less than 4 minutes for the SaberCats to reclaim the lead after Du Plessis did not roll away at the breakdown. Windsor again slotted the kick for a 23-21 lead.
The Legion answered back after a Du Plessis steal at the breakdown, which led to a Pat Blair try and a conversion by Audsley for a 28-23 lead.
Sam Windsor then had three consecutive penalty kick attempts, making the first and third ones for scrum infractions, while missing the second. This gave the SaberCats a narrow 29-28 lead.
A SaberCats attack pushed the ball inside the Legion 22-meters and Osea Kolinisau surprised the legion with a drop goal in the 75th minute to take a 4 points lead, 32-28. The Legion would need one last try.
The 78th minute proved to be a decisive moment for the SaberCats. Diego Maquieira who had just entered the match had his first lineout throw-in. Cam Dolan had already caused three lineouts to be stolen. This time the throw was not straight, which resulted in a Legion lineout inside the SaberCats 22-meters. It was Gil Covey’s turn to throw and Chris Tuori gathered the ball and after several phases, Matt Trouville was sent to the bin for not releasing in the tackle.
The Legion attacked from a 5-meter lineout and mauled then attacked from the ensuing breakdown. Albert Harmon had several advances before Tony Purpura grounded the ball in death for the win. Ben Cima then slotted the conversion, with the final to the Legion 35-32.
It was an exciting, competitive, flowing rugby match of attacking rugby. The Legion’s scrum performed better during the first half with Rudolph Botha at tighthead and 300 pound CC Mahoni behind him to stabilize the scrum. During the second half, the SaberCats took advantage and this resulted in points.
At the same time, the Legion had the edge in the lineouts. Cam Dolan was a force for the Legion physically and influenced mentally how the SaberCats used the lineouts.
Anthony Salaber had a break out performance scoring a hat trick during the first half. He also had a key restart tap that gave the Legion the ball. Nate Augspurger was aggressive the entire match, first playing scrumhalf and then taking over the wing for Taku Ngwenya, who was stellar both offensively and defensively in the match. JP Du Plessis, Ryan Matyas, and Dylan Audsley also performed well, contributing to the attack. Tadhg Leader leadership at flyhalf was also evident.
The Legion forwards also had important contributions. Tu’ihalmaka continued to show improvement in his conversion from No. 8 to loosehead prop. Pat Blair contributed a try at hooker and Rudolph Botha, who played with Free State in South Africa, helped to stabilize the pack. CC Mahoni is a force and Albert Harmon contributed the whole match at the breakdowns. Devin short is also a promising player.
Several players stood out for the SaberCats. Connor Murphy gets under the skin of many opponents and his kicks and his pinpoint passing often led the attack. Sam Windsor was the leading points scorer, scoring a try, 5 penalties, and 2 conversions for 24 points. Osea Kolinisau added a try and a drop goal for the other 8 points.
The collective forwards of Jake Turnbull, Lindsey Stevens, Adam Macklin, Robert Messon, Charlie Hewitt, Chris Coyle, Cecil Garber and Matt Trouville performed well in the scrums and around the breakdowns. The contributions continued when the reserves entered.
In addition to Murphy, Windsor and Kolinisau, Conor Mills, Alex Elkins, Malacchi Esdale and Zach Pangelinan each contributed to the attacks.
In addition to lineout play, the SaberCats missed tackles were a factor in the match.
The MAN of the Match went to Anthony Salaber for the San Diego Legion, but for the SaberCats, Sam Windsor should have that honor.
Next for the Legion is an away match against the Glendale Raptors on May 14. The Houston SaberCats have a bye next week and will resume play on May 19 at New Orleans Gold in the CBS Sports Network Game of the Week.
San Diego Legion & Houston SaberCats Squads
San Diego Legion: 1 Sione Tu’ihalamaka 2 Pat Blair 3 Rudolph Botha 4 Siaosi Mahoni 5 Albert ‘Jay’ Harmon 6 Chris Turori 7 Devin Short 8 Cam Dolan (VC) 9 Nate Augspurger (C) 10 Tadhg Leader 11 Ryan Matyas 12 JP du Plessis 13 Anthony Salaber 14 Taku Ngwenya 15 Dylan Audsley 16 Gil Covey 17 Tony Purpura 18 Nathan Sylvia 19 Derrick Broussard 20 Malon Al-Jiboori 21 Nick Boyer 22 Ben Cima 23 Naima Fuala’au + Head Coach Rob Hoadley
Houston SaberCats: 1 Jake Turnbull 2 Lindsey Stevens 3 Adam Macklin 4 Robert Meeson 5 Charlie Hewitt 6 Chris Coyle 7 Cecil Garber 8 Matt Trouville 9 Connor Murphy 10 Sam Windsor 11 Alex Elkins 12 Conor Mills 13 Osea Kolinisau14 Malacchi Esdale 15 Zach Pangelinan 16 Diego Maquierira 17 Kenneth Hepburn 18 Jack Riley 19 Justin Allen 20 Kyle Sumsion 21 Pago Haini 22 Chris Slater 23 Joey Iosefa + Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick
San Diego Legion Pre-season Record (1-1)
San Diego Legion 2018 Major League Rugby Schedule
- April 22 at Seattle Seawolves (L 39-23) Preview Cox/AT&T
- April 29 vs. Utah Warriors (W 31-24) Preview Cox/AT&T
- May 4 vs. Houston SaberCats (W 35-32) Preview CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
- May 13 at Glendale Raptors 5 pm PDT Network: Cox/AT&T
- May 26 at Austin Elite 6 pm PDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
- June 9 at New Orleans Gold 1 pm PDT Network: COX
- June 17 vs. Austin Elite 5 pm PDT Network: Cox/AT&T
- June 23 vs. Glendale Raptors 7 pm PDT
Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
- June 30 MLR Semi-Finals at Glendale Sat, 5-10 pm PDT Network: CBSSN
- July 7 MLR Championship at San Diego 7-9:45 pm PDT Network: CBSSN (GAME OF THE WEEK)
Houston SaberCats Pre-Season Record (12-2-2)
- April 7 vs San Diego Legion (33-17) Preview
- March 24 at New Orleans Gold (D 32-32) Preview
- March 3 vs Ontario Arrows (D 28-28) Preview
- Feb 24 vs New Orleans Gold (W 30-12) Preview
- Feb 17 vs NYAC (W 39-38) Preview
- Feb 10 vs Chicago Lions (W 61-10) Preview
- Feb 3 vs Capital Selects (W 49-03) Preview
- Jan 27 vs James Bay Athletic Association (W 42-13) Preview
- Jan 20 vs Uruguay (L 24-32) Preview
- Jan 13 vs Vancouver Ravens (L 23-26) Preview
- Jan 6 vs Seattle Saracens (W 50-07)
- Dec. 16 vs Dallas Reds (W 21-05)
- Dec. 9 at Austin Blacks (W 55-21)
- Dec. 2 at Dallas Quins (W 125-00)
- Nov. 18 vs Dallas Reds at U. Houston (W 31-24)
- Nov 11 vs Austin Blacks (W 46-31)
Houston SaberCats 2018 Major League Rugby Schedule
- April 21 vs New Orleans Gold (L 35-26) Preview
- April 28 vs Austin Elite (W 50-38) Preview AT&T
- May 4 at San Diego Legion(L 35-32) Preview 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)