The Houston SaberCats hosted Tasman Mako in their first preseason match on Saturday, January 18, 2020, at AVEVA Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Mako exited with a 29-19 win and will travel to Seattle to meet the Seawolves on Sunday, January 26.
Both teams had different goals as the Mako fielded a largely developmental squad from the club that went undefeated and won the Mitre 10 Cup competition. The Mako players wanted to impress the coaches and win their first match of their two-match USA Tour.
For the SaberCats, the preseason match against stiff competition provided a gauge to where the stands and what improvements are needed prior to the regular season begins. With this in mind, Houston elected to work on set pieces deep in the red zone instead of attempting penalty goals when opportunities were presented. That strategy would have been different in the regular season.
The match was broadcast on the Houston SaberCats Facebook page courtesy of Air New Zealand and may still be viewed for those who missed the match.
Preceding the match was a Red River Division 1 Club rugby match with the Austin Blacks defeating the West Houston Lions 56-0. A replay is also available on the Houston SaberCats Facebook page.
Houston SaberCats vs Tasman Mako Match Recap
The first half saw the Houston SaberCats having handling errors and penalties that thwarted their attacking efforts, while the Tasman Mako was also penalized numerous times.
The Tasman Mako used SaberCats errors to counterattack and scored after a lineout in the 8th minute as tighthead prop went blind for a try in the left corner to lead 5-0.
The SaberCats controlled the ball for the next eight minutes as they continued to pressure the Mako. As Sam Windsor was near in-goal and expecting to be tackled, he executed a no-look pass to Matias Freyre that went to ground and resulted in a turnover.
The Mako extended their lead in the 23rd minute as the team counterattacked and hooker Max Fraine popped a pass to fullback Jamie Spowart, who scored between the posts. This made the conversion by flyhalf Campbell Morgan-Parata an easy one.
The SaberCats answered back several minutes later with a try by inside center Tiaan Loots on a crash ball with Windsor converting to cut the lead to 12-7.
Soon after Mako tighthead prop was sent to the bin for collapsing a maul. The SaberCats took advantage of this as the replacement hooker Tim Cadwallader scored from a driving maul. Windsor then slotted the kick for a Houston 14-12 lead, which held up for the break.
After an early attack by the Mako, the Houston SaberCats countered attacked deep inside their territory. A decision by Windsor to offload instead of going to the ground proved to be a momentum difference-maker as Caleb Coventry intercepted the offload scored an easy try, which was converted by Sam Briggs to reclaim the lead 19-14.
Two minutes later, outside center Caleb Coventry issued a high shoulder hit to Zach Pangelinan’s jaw. Referee Scott Green, called Mako captain Jacob Norris over to warn about the mounting number of penalties, instead of issuing a red or yellow card.
The SaberCats were penalized and Sam Briggs slotted a penalty goal to make the lead a two-score one at 22-14. The Mako continued their infractions and Tim Sail being sent off.
Uruguay international and vice-captain Diego Magno scored a try to cut the lead to 22-19 as Windsor’s conversion was wide.
As the SaberCats attacked to midfield, Mathew Faoagali was stripped of the ball by Sam Biggs and evaded defenders by slicing and stepping his way in for a try, which he then converted to lead 29-19. This was the final score of the night and Briggs’s performance led to him being named the Man of the Match.
The Houston SaberCAts will host NOLA Gold on January 25, while the Tasman Mako travels to Seattle and conclude their U.S. tour against the Seattle Seawolves the next day.
Squads & Match Preview
Houston SaberCats: 1 Valdemar Lee-Lo 2 Gabe Romero 3 Charlie Connolly 4 Kyle Breytenbach 5 Victor Comptat 6 Luke Beauchamp 7 Cecil Garber 8 Diego Magno (VC) 9 Dewet Roos (C) 10 Sam Windsor 11 Matias Freyre 12 Tiaan Loots 13 Max Tacket 14 Zach Pangelinan 15 Osea Kolinisau Reserves 11 Zack Godfrey 16 Tim Cadwallader 17 Boyd Wiggins 18 Charlie Hewitt 19 Mathew Faoagali 20Tim Stanfill 21 Jake Christmann 22 Kieran Farmer 23 Zachary Short Head Coach Paul Healy
Tasman Mako: 1 Kershawl Skyes Martin 2 Max Fraine 3 Sam Matenga 4 Te Ahiwaru Ciridavet 5 Antonio Shalfoon 6 Jacob Norris (C) 7 Braden Stewart (VC) 8 Isaiah Miller 9 Louie Chapman 10 Campbell Morgan-Parata 11 Rahiri Witehira 12 Michael Stringer 13 Caleb Coventry 14 Nick Foxley 15 Jamie Spowart (VC) Reserves 16 Sam Lane 17 Quinn Harrison-Jones 18 Matt Graham-Williams 19 Hopote Taufu 20 Max Hicks 21 Connor Higgins 22 Tim Sail 23 Mitchell Barry 24 Sam Briggs 25 Jan Lammers 26 Saul Lewis 27 Taine Robinson Staff Co-Coaches Gray Cornelius & Kahu Marfell, Manager Kurt Harrington, Physio James Holden, S&C Tony Lewis, CEO Wayne Young – Chairman
- @Hou_Sabercats v Tasman Mako, Aveva Stadium, Houston, Saturday 18th January. 7:00 PM CT
@Seawolves_Rugby v Tasman Mako, Starfire Stadium, Seattle, Sunday 26th January, 7:30 PM PT
- New Zealand kick-off times will be Sunday 19 Jan at 12 noon for the Houston match and 4:30 pm on Monday, January 27 for the Seattle game.