Houston SaberCats Face Utah Warriors: MLR Preview

Houston SaberCats & Utah Warriors

The second half of the Major League Rugby season begins with the Houston SaberCats facing the Utah Warriors in a battle of 1-3 teams. Each team will be looking to jump-start the second half of the season with the playoffs still a possibility for the winner. The match will be on Saturday, May 26 at 5 pm CDT (6 pm EDT) at Dyer Stadium in Houston.

Tickets are still available for the match. For those who cannot attend, the match will be broadcast locally on AT&T Sports Network, nationally on ESPN+, and internationally on the Major League Rugby Facebook page.

The SaberCats suffered a narrow loss to NOLA Gold last week and have contended in each of their matches. The Utah Warriors have been improving each week and their physical play and explosive backs should provide a test for the SaberCats, who like to play expansive rugby.

With the USA Men’s Eagles convening for camp on Sunday, the match takes on even more importance as both teams will miss players during the June tests. Paul Mullen will represent the SaberCats. For the Utah Warriors, Tevita ‘David’ Tameilau and Paul Lasike are part of the squad. Kurt Morath also plays for Tonga.

SaberCats Show Support for Santa Fe Community

“On behalf of the Houston SaberCats organization, we would like to send our thoughts and prayers to the friends, families, students, and teachers of those affected by the Santa Fe tragedies that happened last week.

For this Saturday’s Game, 5/26 (Week 6) at Dyer Stadium/ 5 pm, the stadium will be adorned with green/gold ribbons (SFHS colors) armbands to honor the Santa Fe Community.

The team will also extend free tickets to all teachers, administrators, and students of Santa Fe Highschool who wish to join us at the game (just show ID at the gate).”

It is also Military Appreciation Night. Show your Military ID and get 15% off of a ticket.

Houston SaberCats

Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick has made four changes to his starters from last week’s heartbreaking 24-20 loss to NOLA Gold.

The team will have a front row that has given the team the greatest success in the pre-season. Adam Macklin returns to start but at loosehead prop. Both Lindsey Stevens and Paul Mullen retain their positions at hooker and tighthead prop, respectively. At lock, there is a positional change with Matt Trouville moving from No. 8 and pairing with Charlie Hewitt. In the back row, captain Kyle Sumsion moves to No. 8 with Cecil Garber returning as a starter and pairing with Chris Coyle at flanker.

In the backs, the team gets the high scoring wing Josua Vici back onto the squad. Vici missed the last two matches and missed his explosiveness and physical play. Dan Paul moves into outside center as Osea Kolinisau takes over for Zach Pangelinan, who received a red card last match. The other backs remain the same with Connor Murphy and Sam Windsor leading from the halfbacks. Conor Mills is the inside center and Malacchi Esdale is a wing whose blazing speed the defense will need to contain.

The reserves have been rotated all season and this keeps the team fresh and provides quality substitutions during the second half or as needed. Front row reserves include Diego Maquieira at hooker, Jake Turnbull, and Kenneth Hepburn at prop. Other forwards include Robert Meeson at lock and Pago Haini at the back row. Backs reserves have Chris Slater at wing or at scrumhalf, Joey Iosefa at center, and Alex Elkins at wing.

While the Utah Warriors have improved in the scrum, the SaberCats are one of the best in taking control from set pieces. The lineout throws are sometimes inconsistent and the team’s height advantage is sometimes minimized as a result.

The team’s forwards are quick to the breakdowns and try to use the quick ball to transfer the ball to their wings. The team also uses line speed in defense and tactical kicks from both Murphy and Windsor to place pressure on the opposing side.

This is a crossroads match for both teams. The SaberCats will not want to disappoint themselves or their fans this week, especially what happened in Santa Fe, so give an edge to the home team.

Utah Warriors

Head Coach Alf Daniels has made one change in his starters from the 41-32 loss to the Seattle Seawolves. Iniki Fa’amausili, who has played for the Junior All-Americans is at wing. In the reserves with the injuries to the Whippy brothers, former BYU punter and rugby player, Jonny Linehan comes out of the broadcast booth to join the team as a player.

As the season has progressed the Utah scrum has been able to contest most MLR teams. The improvement was tested during the second half, as reserves came on and the Seawolves had an edge last week. This could occur again with the team facing a very experienced scrummaging side.

The Warriors forwards are physical with a front row of Alex Tucci, Lote Tu’ipulota, and Angus Maclellan. Tu’ipulato also scored two tries last week. The locks pair Eagle Matt Jensen with vice captain Saia ‘Uhila, with Lance Williams and Ara Elkington at flanker and Eagle and newly signed Glasgow Warrior, Tevita Tameilau at No 8.

The halfbacks consist of Joseph Nicholls at scrumhalf and Tonga international Kurt Morath at flyhalf. Morath was not as sharp as he normally is in last week’s match kicking, but in Texas that is likely to change. The centers are go-to players in captain and USA Eagle Paul Lasike, along with Fets Vainikolo, who is a shifty and powerful runner and scoring threat. In addition to Iniki Fa’amausili, who gains a start at wing, Tonata Lauti is also a scoring threat and Don Pati at fullback applies his rugby sevens skills finding gaps and energizing the team.

Last week the team called in reinforcements in the front row for the reserves. Tino Mafi is a hooker, but RAy Forrester is also available at that position. Both Maka Tameilau, who played for the San Francisco Rush and for Life West and Les Soloai who played rugby league, are props. John Cullen, a capped Eagle plays back row and can play lock. Add center Jonny Linehan, Vernon Ale, and halfback Ben Nicholls and that completes the reserves.

The Utah Warriors have improved each week challenging their opponents with physcial play, speed, and agility. The match will likely be decided with the reserves. Last week’s match was a fast paced match and the Utah Warriors contended with the end of the match favoring the Seawolves. How the Warriors play in the second half, will be a key to look at, as the SaberCats can continue to push a high paced match when they enter.

Teams can create their own luck. Both teams will need to minimize penalties with Morath and Windsor ready to add points. It will also be important for both teams to gain bonus points.

Houston SaberCats & Utah Warriors Squads

Houston SaberCats: 1 Adam Macklin 2 Lindsey Stevens  3 Paul Mullen 4 Charlie Hewitt 5 Matt Trouville 6 Chris Coyle7 Cecil Garber 8 Kyle Sumsion (c) 9 Connor Murphy 10 Sam Windsor 11 Josua Vici 12 Conor Mills 13 Dan Paul 14 Malacchi Esdale 15 Osea Kolinisau 16 Diego Maquierira 17 Jake Turnbull 18 Kenneth Hepburn 19 Robert Meeson 20 Pago Haini 21 Chris Slater 22 Joey Iosefa 23 Alex Elkins + Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick Allen 20 Chris Parker 21 Cecil Garber 22 Chris Slater 23 Dan Paul + Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick

Utah Warriors: 1 Alex Tucci, 2 Lote Tu’ipulotu, 3 Angus MacLellan, 4 Matt Jensen, 5 Saia Uhila, (VC) 6 Lance Williams, 7 Ara Elkington, 8 Tevita ‘David’ Tameilau, 9 Joseph Nicholls, 10 Kurt Morath, 11 Tonata Lauti, 12 Paul Lasike (capt.), 13 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 14 Iniki Fa’amausili 15 Don Pati 16 Tino Mafi 17  Maka Tameilau 18 Les Soloai 19 Ray Forrester  20 John Cullen 21 Jonny Linehan  22 Vernon Ale 23 Ben Nicholls, + Head Coach Alf Daniels

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 (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 (L 24-20) Preview 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)

Utah Warriors Pre-season

Utah Warriors 2018 Major League Rugby Season

  • April 29 at San Diego Legion (L 31-24) Preview Cox/AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
  • May 5 vs Glendale Raptors (L 36-29) Preview AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
  • May 11 vs Austin Elite Rugby (W 42-21) Preview CBSSN, ESPN+
  • May 20 at Seattle Seawolves (L 41-32) Preview  ROOT SPORTS, ESPN+
  • May 26 at Houston SaberCats 4 pm MDT Network: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
  • June 1 at Austin Elite Rugby 7 pm MDT Network: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+
  • June 16 vs New Orleans Gold 2 pm MDT Network: CBSSN, ESPN+
  • June 23 vs Houston SaberCats 1 pm Network: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN+

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North American Rugby News With A USA Slant