Rugby United New York defeated the Houston SaberCats 54-19 at Belson Stadium on St. John’s University campus on Saturday, July 10. The match was broadcast on AT&T Sports Net in Houston, MSG, and streamed on The Rugby Network. Before the MLR match, Met NY U23s defeated Roots Rugby U23s 47-0.
New York will now await the outcome of the Seattle Seawolves vs NOLA Gold match on July 11 with NOLA currently trailing New York by 5 points in the standings.
NOLA Gold could keep pace with New York with a bonus-point win and would need a 15 point margin of victory to move into second place in the Eastern Conference. A loss could mean that NOLA Gold would need a decisive win in New York next week to make the playoffs. Regardless, both teams control their own destiny in making the playoffs.
Last night Rugby ATL secured a playoff spot with a road 41-31 over the Utah Warriors and have the inside edge in playing at home in the Eastern Conference playoff match. Rugby ATL concludes their season at New England on July 18 in the final MLR regular season match.
Houston SaberCats’ Sam Windsor kicked deep to open the match and then secured an early New York knock on moving the ball wide left with Paula Balekana finishing with a try in the left corner. This gave the SaberCats a 5-0 lead with Windsor’s conversion attempt from touch being wide.
The restart was gathered by Zach Pangelinan and kicked to touch giving New York a lineout. A Houston penalty had Dan Hollinshead kicking to touch to give New York a lineout deep inside SaberCats territory. Will Leonard made a strong run into contact and after several phases, Andy Ellis scored a try under the posts for a 7-5 lead.
New York utilized an offsides advantage penalty to kick for territory resulting in a lineout and subsequent maul in which Dylan Fawsitt scored with Dan Hollinshead slotting the extras to push the lead to 14-5.
The restart was gathered by Apenisa Cakaubalavu and cycled wide right. Joel Miranda kicked deep placing Houston under pressure. New York attacked again with Kara Pryor moving past a defender, offloading to Cakaubalavu and then to Ellis for his second try. Hollinshead added the conversion to lead 21-5.
Another New York attack ended have a Kyle Sumsion offload went into SaberCats hands. The ball quickly moved to Zack Godrey, who sped ahead with Api Cakaubalavu thwarting a potential score with his tackle. A Houston not releasing penalty at the breakdown led to a chip and chase by Ben Foden, who stretched for the ball, knocking the ball forward. This gave a scrum to Houston, which was won by New York. Will Leonard advanced the ball near in-goal and Dylan Fawsitt gained his second try, earning a bonus point in the standings. Hollinshead was perfect with his boot and after 20 minutes the team led 28-5.
Then it was some back and forth for both teams before a SaberCats penalty led to a New York lineout 5-meters from in-goal. Samu Tawake barreled over the line from short range and Hollinshead slotted again, 35-5.
The ensuing restart was gathered by Cakaubalavu and cycled wide right. A break by Dylan Fawsitt, and subsequent offloads by Andy Ellis to Ben Bonasso, and went back to Apensia Cakaubalavu for a try in the left corner. Hollinshead added the conversion and would take a 42-5 lead into the break.
Houston made a number of substitutions to open the second half. They struck first again in the 42nd minute from a Veramu Dikidikilati break down the right wide channel for a try, which Sam Windsor converted to cut the lead to 42-12.
Neither team would add points for the next 16 minutes before New York attacked from a lineout 5-meters from in-goal. a knock-on ended the attack and allowed Houston to dodge a potential scoring opportunity.
Ten minutes later, Houston used an attacking scrum for a Taylor Howden break and an offload to Nick Boyer for a try under the posts in the 70th minute, 42-19.
A New York lineout throw was long and Houston attacked briefly before a breakdown penalty gave the ball back to RUNY. Kyle Sumsion and James Rochford drove forward and after a penalty advantage, and a New York scrum, the ball went wide left and back to center with Max Dacey scoring his first MLR try under the posts, 49-19.
Shortly later, Joel Miranda executed a chip and chase for a try in the right corner, which after Hollinshead’s first conversion miss from touch, pushed the lead to 54-19.
The final two tries for New York were scored while playing with 14 men, as Connor Wallace-Sims left the match in the 72nd minute and could not be replaced.
That’s the way it would end with New York picking up a winning bonus point to move back into second place in the standings with 51 points.
Next week will be a home match for New York against NOLA Gold at Belson Stadium on July 17 at 2 pm. That match will determine who will face Rugby ATL in the playoffs.
Houston finishes their season on Thursday, July 11 in a short turnaround in Seattle.
RUNY Man of the Match honors went to Joel Miranda, according to the Rugby United New York Supporters web page. It should be noted that Diego Maquieira grew up in the area, and was excited to play against his old club. Kirk Hamilton also played in his first RUNY home match, after playing in numerous away ones.
For Houston, who was the MAN of the Match? – Paula Balekana, Sam Windsor, Zach Pangelinan, Veramu Dikidikilati, Nick Boyer, or from the forwards, i.e., Luke Beauchamp, Diego Fortuny, or Apisai Tauyavuca.
New York exited the match happy to have had a bonus-point win, but not happy with their second-half performance. Houston added two tries in the half before two New York tries in the closing five minutes of the match. They also will be concerned about the status of Fasi Fuatai, who limped off the pitch during the match.
Houston had to be pleased with their rugby pathway, as five players from Rugby HTX were on the matchday squad. New York also had three players playing for the Met New York U23s (Connor Buckley, Kaleb Geiger, & Keanu Andrade).
For me, this was the first time that I had seen the Houston SaberCats play live, the last of the MLR teams I have seen. It was great to meet several of the SaberCats players and catch up with a few that I have met before when they played with other teams. Rugby is a special sport in that there are opportunities to socialize after matches, even with COVID considerations.
I can’t wait for next season to get back on the pitch after matches to interview players again!
Squads with Player Article Links & Match Preview
Rugby United New York: 1 Sak Taulafo 2 Dylan Fawsitt (C) 3 Samu Tawake 4 Evan Mintern 5 Charlie Hewitt 6 Kyle Sumsion 7 Ben Bonasso 8 Kara Pryor 9 Andy Ellis 10 Dan Hollinshead 11 Apenisa Cakaubalavu 12 Will Leonard 13 Fa’asiu Fuatai 14 Joel Miranda 15 Ben Foden 16 Diego Maquieira 17 James Rochford 18 Kirk Hamilton 19 Max Dacey 20 Rob Irimescu 21 Conor McManus 22 Harry Bennett 23 Connor Wallace-Sims
Houston SaberCats: 1 Nik Hildebrand 2 Diego Fortuny 3 CJ Burke 4 Bronson Teles 5 Jérémy Lenaerts 6 Apisai Tauyavuca 7Cecil Garber 8 Luke Beaucamp (C) 9 Zachary Short 10 Taylor Howden 11 Paula Balekana 12 Sam Windsor 13 Joe Thomas 14 Zack Godfrey 15 Zach Pangelinan 16 Mike Brown 17 Patrick Donovan18 Jeff Steele 19 Will Crawford 20 Adriaan Booysen 21 Nick Boyer 22 Veramu Dikidikilati 23 Jake Hidalgo
All photos are by Keith Killeen, except for Sam Windsor’s wife Becca’s SaberCats photo of present and former players.