Match Preview: SaberCats vs. Seattle Seawolves
This coming Sunday, the Houston SaberCats will make their third road trip of the season when they travel to the Pacific Northwest to take on the defending MLR Champions, The Seattle Seawolves. Seattle is known not only for their stout defense, which has been dubbed “The Seawall”, but also for their rowdy and vociferous fans.
To combat such hostile conditions, the ‘Cats will need to put an emphasis on understanding and executing the game plan in an environment where on-field communication may be difficult. That, along with the ability to adapt, as even the most well thought out plan of attack can be stymied by a unit that has already suffocated the likes of Dan Moor (Toronto) and Harley Davidson (Glendale) this season.
As I said in my RUNY recap piece earlier this week, the ‘Cats will have the advantage in the scrum against most opponents this season, which is unsurprising given Coach Fitzpatrick’s background (much of which happens to be in Seattle, having put together a winning program as Head Coach of the Men’s-D1 Seattle Saracens). However, when breaking down the stats in four major metric areas (Possession, Territory, Scrums won, and Lineouts won), I was surprised to find that the ‘Cats led the Seawolves in every category except the scrum. Take a look for yourself!
Note: The percentages below have been calculated through the first six weeks of the MLR Season.
Own Scrum Won:
Own Line-Out Won:
Now, a few things have to be considered before applying any kind of meaning to these stats. The first of which: These are just numbers, and rugby can be a very unpredictable game. Second, is that the Seawolves have shown some marked improvement since week one in terms of their chemistry, and the fact that we lead them in certain metrics shouldn’t be cause to let our guard down.
After all, while it’s always a good thing to be ahead of your opponent in anything, the fact is that Seattle leads us in one ever-important metric: Average points per game.
What this says outright is that Seattle has experienced a level of efficiency in their offensive phases that the ‘Cats have thus far found out of reach. It seems cliche and basic to say, but taking advantage of the opportunities given by forcing turnovers and penalties and turning them into points is the only way to come out on top in a close contest. While Houston’s ability to retain possession through the passing game is markedly up since last year, it won’t mean much if all it accomplishes is eating up time on the clock.
However, the numbers are what they are for a reason. And for Houston, they have shown some real promise, particularly in the Territory game, where they have steadily improved week by week (46%, 48%, 52%, 60%). If Houston can pressure Seattle in their own zone while forcing some mistakes on top, our slight edge in overall possession advantage should keep us competitive and possibly put us over the top.
More importantly, how will we respond in the defensive phases? While players like Luke Beauchamp and Jamie Dever have lit up the stat lines in terms of tackles, fluke line breaks allowed to our opponents have been killer in most games this season.
This will be the ‘Cats toughest opponent of the season so far, and yet, the greatest chance for this team to show fans the true strength of our resolve.
By Liam Poach
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