Match Preview: NOLA Gold vs Houston SaberCats

NOLA Gold hosts the Houston SaberCats in an MLR cross-conference match on Saturday, May 8 at 3 pm local (4 pm ET) at the Gold Mine. The match is being broadcast on Cox Sports TV, AT&T SportsNet, and streamed on The Rugby Network.

NOLA Gold enters the match in second place with a 3-2-1 record in the Eastern Conference with 19 points based on Rugby United New York having more wins. The Conference race is tight with Toronto, New England, and Rugby ATL, each with 16 points, while Old Glory is in contention with 13.

The Houston SaberCats are 2-4 with 12 points and are in 5th place in the Western Conference. The team has been on an offensive tear and the match against NOLA could shape up to be decided on who scores last.

NOLA Gold head coach Nate Osborne has had key injuries this season and both fullback and flyhalf. The team has overcome this adversity by signing players who can play multiple positions.

Nate has made five changes in the starters with Matt Harmon and Pat O’Toole swapping places at loosehead prop and at hooker with Kevin Sullivan and Eric Howard. Billy Stewart enters at lock, which allows Cam Dolan to move back at his preferred No.8 and Devin Short to blindside flanker. Timothee Gullimin returns at flyhalf and Joeli Tikoisuva on the right-wing.

The team will utilize a 6/2 split in the reserves with forwards/backs.

Houston SaberCats Head Coach Paul Healy has made two changes in the starters with Nikoloz Khatiashvilli swapping with Charlie Connolly at tighthead prop. Joe Thomas gains a start at the outside center. Three-backs positional changes have Taylor Howden moving from outside center to flyhalf, Robbie Povey from flyhalf to fullback, and Paula Balekana from fullback to left-wing.

In the reserves, Jeremy Lenaerts joins the team roster for the first time. He originally opted out of the 2021 season due to health concerns with the pandemic, but with a substantial number of people in the U.S. being vaccinated, his concerns changed. Bronson Teles also rejoins the roster providing back row cover.

The Houston SaberCats have demonstrated that with a simpler game plan that they are capable of matching the high-scoring NOLA Gold. Both teams will need to minimize penalties and handling errors, which have plagued both teams.

Set pieces provide both teams with a platform in which to attack. The SaberCats are among the league leaders in winning scrums, while NOLA Gold has an edge in the lineouts. Look for NOLA Gold to kick for touch and attempt to score from rolling mauls, while Houston will take the early points from penalty goals or use scrums close to in-goal to score.

Squads with Player Article Links

NOLA Gold: 1 Matt Harmon 2 Pat O’Toole 3 Dino Waldren 4 Kyle Baillie (c) 5 Billy Stewart 6 Devon Short 7 Andrew Guerra  8  Cam Dolan 9 Holden Yungert 10 Timothee Guillimin 11 Julian Dominguez 12 Juan Cappiello 13 Lockie Kratz 14 Joeli Tikoisuva 15 Hanno Dirksen 16 Eric Howard 17 Kevin Sullivan 18 John Sullivan 19 Ignacio Dotti 20 Nikola Bursic 21 Tesimoni Tongauiha 22 Damian Stevens 23 Kyle Rogers

Houston SaberCats: 1 Nicolas SolveyraTiaan Erasmus 3 Nikoloz Khatiashvili  4 Kody O’Neil 5 Lucas Albornoz 6 Apisai Tauyavuca 7 Cecil GarberDiego Magno 9 Nick Boyer 10 Taylor Howden 11 Paula Balekana 12 Sam Windsor (C) 13 Joe Thomas 14 Jake Hidalgo 15 Robbie Povey 16 Charlie Connolly 17 Patrick Donovan18 Nik Hildebrand 19 Jeremy Lenaerts 20 Adriaan Booysen 21 Bronson Teles 22  Zachary Short 23 Max Tacket

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