Match Report: SaberCats vs. Austin Elite Rugby 1.26.19
After months of anticipation and speculation of all sorts, Major League Rugby season two is finally upon us. Which, for the people of Houston, means one thing: It’s time to start donning your black and yellow kits!
The SaberCats travelled North to Austin on Saturday with revenge on their minds. Just two weeks previously, the ‘Cats lost a heartbreaker of an exhibition match against The Elite 14-10, instigating online rumblings that a repeat of last season’s misfortunes may be on the horizon.
Unfortunately for the individuals with twitchy ‘Twitter-Fingers’, Coach Justin Fitzpatrick, and perhaps more importantly Sam Windsor, had other plans. With the rain falling, soaking ball and body, Houston stuck it out and came out on top in what was an old-school opening weekend slugfest.
This game was all about field position. While the soaked condition of the field may have inhibited much of the big play potential for both sides, all that meant was the boots of Fullbacks Zin-Zan Elan Puttick (Elite) and Zach Pangelinan (SaberCats) got an extra workout as each man continuously sent rockets and high-hanging bombs at the other and into touch.
While Elan Puttick certainly gave the defending backs of Houston a workout, Pangelinan ultimately came out on top in the dueling efforts to keep the other team on its back heel. While not securing any points himself, Pangelinan’s effort certainly went a long way in assuring the scoring opportunities for The Elite were kept to a minimum.
However, when it came to those who did put points on the board, look no further than Mr. Wonderful himself, Sam Windsor. While The Elite’s Tim Guilliman went a respectable 2-for-3 on the night kicking for posts, Windsor outstripped the whole of Major League Rugby, going a perfect SEVEN-FOR-SEVEN on penalty conversions, for an astounding total of 21 points (for those who like to deal in percentages, that’s 100% of his team’s total score).
The improvements from preseason were also apparent in the passing game. Scrum-half Santiago Arata has brought a new element of fastball to this team’s formula, as he consistently found ways to get playmakers such as Malachi Esdale and Connor Mills involved in the passing game. Arata’s style is complimented almost perfectly by Connor Murphy, who came off the bench to bring a more methodical, forward oriented attack that was successful in pounding the Elite defense in the waning minutes of the game.
It may not have been flashy, but this is in many ways the kind of rugby Coach Fitzpatrick has been trying to coax out of his players since the start of training camp. Toughness, and the resiliency to keep the foot to the pedal for all 80-minutes.
One game in, and the ‘Cats are undefeated. So far, so good.
Stream the match here
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Photo Cred: Norma Salinas
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