Match Report: SaberCats vs. San Diego Legion 02.09.19
By Liam Poach
It was a scene that ended in heartbreak, as the Houston SaberCats fell to the San
Diego Legion 17-13 in their second road game of the 2019 season. In similar fashion to last
year’s matchup with their West Coast foes, Houston held a 13-3 lead going into halftime, but
ultimately fell behind in the waning seconds of the game.
The first half exposed fans to a reinvigorated ‘Cats squad. They played with a fluidity in the
passing game that we only saw in spurts in 2018, but now appears to be second nature thanks to an improvement in the squad’s overall chemistry. Josua Vici in particular was great with the ball in hand,
displaying his patented fancy footwork, as well as securing the team’s first try of the year (and
only one of the game).
Meanwhile, Scrum-half Connor Murphy got the start tonight with Santiago Arata absent. The
young London native kept the Legion on their heels most of the game as he executed a
barrage of sharp-shooter like box kicks out of the ruck. He balanced his peppering of the
Legion’s back 3, making sure his big playmakers in the backline got touches.
Speaking of big playmakers, Malachi Esdale has been a force on both offense and defense
since the exhibition season, forcing opposing defenses to account for his whereabouts at all
times. His ability to move with both grace and brute force in one single motion is unparalleled
throughout the league, and his nine carries on the night were some of the team’s most
productive of the game.
When it came to the defensive phases, Luke Beauchamp (Flanker) led the way with 14 tackles,
several of them coming in key moments inside the ‘Cats own 22. While Houston let up a
few splash plays throughout the match, they were few and far between, forcing the Legion to
expend as much energy as possible in their pursuit for territory. Jamie Dever, 1/3 of the team’s
All-Irish front row, is a name to keep an eye on as well, as he finished the game with a 100%
success rate on all tackles attempted.
While the end result may have left rugby fans on the Gulf-Coast of Texas reeling, the
improvements from year one to two should leave an overall feeling of confidence in this squad
moving forward. The passing game is seeing a much higher level of efficiency, while the
defensive phases are remaining stout. If this team can maintain the same level of execution and
intensity that we saw in the first half against the Legion in every game, there will be no stopping
the Saber-pack when it’s on the hunt.
Match Photos: Here
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