The Houston SaberCats closed out their time at Constellation Field with a 29-27 victory over the Utah Warriors on Thursday, March 21.
The SaberCats moved to 7th place in the MLR standings with a 2-5 record and 10 points. The Utah Warriors switched places to 8th place with 8 points and a 1-4-1 record.
The Utah Warriors will host the Toronto Arrows on March 30, while the Houston SaberCats have a bye week and will travel to face the Glendale Raptors on April 6.
Prior to the match, the Utah Warriors made changes in the reserves with Blake Burdette moving to hooker at #16 and Brazil flanker Arthur Bergo at #18.
The match was one where the SaberCats took an early lead and controlled the majority of possession during the first half, but the Utah Warriors took advantage of opportunities to cut the lead to 20-17 at the break. Houston dominated in the scrums, creating several penalties, with some issues on both sides in the lineouts.
Houston had an early scoring opportunity attacking to within meters of in-goal. A chip kick by Murphy was too long and gave Utah the ball. Soon after a penalty by Utah resulted in a penalty goal by Sam Windsor for a 3-0 lead.
The Utah Warriors then went on an attack with a break by Johnny Ika. After a penalty by Houston for being off their feet at the breakdown, the Warriors elected to kick to touch for a lineout, instead of for points. That did not turn out to be the correct decision, as a knock on gave the ball to Houston. From the ensuing scrum, the Warriors were penalized and Windsor kicked for territory resulting in a 5-meter lineout. The SaberCats swung the ball out wide and Zach Pangelinan finished with a try. Windsor then slotted the kick for a 10-0 lead.
That lead was extended after a Warriors lineout. The throw was long and Pat O’Toole took the ball on the burst and raced 50-metes for a try. Windsor again converted for a 17-0 lead.
The Warriors then attacked and reached in-goal with the ball being held up. Houston then turnover the ball, allowing them to clear. The Warriors counterattacked with a break by Don Pati and Angus Macllelan finished with a try in the right corner. Tim O’Malley slotted the kick from touch to cut the lead to 17-7. A Houston penalty then narrowed the lead to 17-10.
The SaberCats answered back with a penalty goal by Windsor. The Warriors had the final say on the final play before the break from a Franco Van den Berg run and an offload to Gannon Moore for a try. O’Malley slotted the kick for a 20-17 score.
After some back and forth to begin the second half, a high tackle by Max Tacket led to O’Malley leveling the match at 20 all. That lead did not last long as Sam Windsor slotted two kicks to push the lead to 26-20.
On a penalty advantage, a Windsor drop goal was wide, but he then had a chance at a penalty goal and was successful to lead 29-20 with five minutes remaining in the match.
The Utah Warriors attack reached meters from in-goal with the SaberCats repelling the attack. Lance Williams then grounded the ball and O’Malley slotted the kick to cut the lead to 29-27 with a minute left.
The Warriors gathered the restart and went through phases, but were ultimately forced into touch for a Houston SaberCats win.
Sam Windsor had a stellar match going 5-5 in penalty goals and 2-2 in conversions. He was named Man of the Match.
Both teams needed the win and Houston will hope that a bye week will help them to prepare for Glendale and continue the momentum from the win. The Utah Warriors picked up a losing bonus point and will regroup to face Toronto.
The match ends the Houston SaberCats stay at Constellation Field. The team will open AVEVA Stadium, the second rugby dedicated venue in the U.S., on April 13 against the Seattle Seawolves.
Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview
Houston SaberCats: 1 Mateo Sanguinetti 2 Pat O’Toole 3 Charlie Connolly 4 Diego Magno 5 Matt Trouville (C) 6 Luke Beauchamp 7 Cecil Garber 8 Alejandro Nieto 9 Connor Murphy 10 Sam Windsor 11 Malacchi Esdale 12 Conor Mills 13 Max Tacket 14 Kelly Kolberg 15 Zach Pangelinan 16 Amro Gouda 17 Jake Turnbull 18 Jamie Dever 19 Victor Comptat 20 Chris Parker 21 Chris Coyle 22 Kieran Farmer 23 Ayron Schramm + Head Coach Justin Fitzpatrick
Utah Warriors: 1 Franco Van den Berg 2 Jeremy Leber 3 Angus Maclellan 4 Matt Jensen 5 Saia Uhila 6 Jackson Kaka 7 Lance Williams 8 John Cullen (VC) 9 Johnny Ika 10 James Semple 11Fetu’u Vanikolo 12 Tim O’Malley (C) 13 Gannon Moore 14 Josh Anderson15 Don Pati 16 Blake Burdette 17 Huluhola Moungaloa 18 Arthur Bergo 19 Kenny Scott 20 Alex Tucci 21 Tonata Lauti 22 Jeremy Misailegalu 23 Joseph Nicholls + Head Coach Alf Daniels