The Houston SaberCats host the Seattle Seawolves in the Major League Rugby Western Conference Final on June 18 at AVAVA Stadium in Houston, Texas at 7 pm ET (6 pm local). The match will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and streamed internationally on The Rugby Network with a 24-hour replay delay in the U.S.
The Houston SaberCats finished the regular season with a 9-7 record and will be making their first playoff appearance. The Seattle Seawolves also finished with a 9-7 record and reached the final after beating San Diego Legion 43-19 last Sunday. Both the Seawolves and Legion entered the playoffs after both Austin Gilgronis and the LA Giltinis were disqualified for MLR infractions.
For the SaberCats, it has been a long five years to reach the playoffs and with the change in their organization, they hope to be perennial contenders each year. This year, they are one victory away from challenging for the MLR Shield.
The Seattle Seawolves won the MLR Shield in both 2018 and 2019 and seem to be peaking at the right time after a win against the Giltinis and the Legion. They would also like to challenge for the championship this year again.
Both teams will also face the game-time temperatures with a heat index of 100 degrees Fahrenheit along with high humidity.
The MLR Shield will be played next weekend against the winner of the Eastern Conference Final between the New England Free Jacks and Rugby New York in either Quincy, MA, or Hoboken, NJ.
MLR Awards and National Team Selection
Houston’s Robbie Povey and Seattle’s Martin Iosefo are nominees for the 2022 S. Marcus Calloway Community Impact Award, which will be announced at the MLR Shield Championship.
The international rugby season is about ready to begin. The Seattle Seawolves AJ Alatimu was named to the Manu Samoa squad for the Pacific Nations Cup which will be held in Fiji in July.
The USA Men’s National Team 30-man traveling squad was also named this week for matches against the French Barbarians and for Rugby World Cup Qualifier away and home matches against Chile. Houston’s Malon Al-Jiboori, Siaosi Mahoni, and Christain Dyer were named to the squad along with Seattle’s Martin Iosefo, Samu Manoa, and Tavite Lopeti.
Rugby Canada’s National Team was also named for matches against Belgium and Spain with SaberCats Robbie Povey selected.
The Houston SaberCats have made 12 changes in the starters since their final regular-season match 29-14 loss to Austin Gilgronis and return to a similar lineout from their 43-36 loss from the Seattle Seawolves the prior week.
The props have swapped with Alec McDonnell and Juan Pablo Zeiss returning and Frikkie De Beer and Aaron Mitch shifting to the reserves. Dean Muir returns to the squad at hooker in place of Diego Fortuny and will captain the side. The locks include Marno Redelinghuys and Siaosi Mahoni. There are also two back-row changes with Danny Barrett at blindside flanker and Malon Al-Jiborri at No.8.
The SaberCats return to their preferred halfback combination of Dillon Smit and David Coetzer, as well as the center pairing of Louritz Van Der Schyff and Christian Dyer. Candian international Robbey Povey moves to fullback.
The reserves have a 6/2 split.
The Seattle Seawolves have kept their starters intact from their 43-19 win over San Diego Legion in the Western Conference semifinals. Allen Clarke has made two changes in the reserves with Sean McNulty and Tevite Lopteti rejoining the squad.
Squads with Player Article Links
Houston SaberCats: 1 Alec McDonnell 2 Dean Muir (C) 3 Juan Pablo Zeiss 4 Marno Redelinghuys 5 Siaosi Mahoni 6 Danny Barrett 7 Wynand Grassmann 8 Malon Al-Jiboori 9 Dillon Smit 10 David Coetzer 11 Gerrie Labuschagne12 Louritz van der Schyff 13 Christian Dyer 14 Matai Leuta15 Robbie Povey 16 Axel Zapata 17 Frikkie De Beer 18 Aaron Mitchell 19 Gideon van Wyk 20 Emmanuel Albert 21 Nick Boyer 22 Zach Pangelinan 23 Keni Nasoqeqe
Seattle Seawolves: 1 Mzamo Majola 2 James Malcolm 3 Sam Matenga 4 Samu Manoa 5 Rhyno Herbst 6 Andrew Durutalo 7 Travis Larsen 8 Riekert Hattingh (C) 9 JP Smith10 AJ Alatimu 11 Martin Iosefo 12 David Busby 13 Dan Kriel 14 Ross Neal 15 Duncan Matthews 16 Sean McNulty 17 Kellen Gordon 18 Taniela Tupou 19 Brad Tucker 20 Tommy Clark 21 Reid Watkins 22 Tavite Lopeti 23 Lauina Futi