SaberCats vs. Glendale Raptors Exhibition match 1.19.19
The wind was whipping on Saturday night, as temperatures in Sugar Land dropped into the low 40’s (I’m told that’s considered cold here in Texas). Still, that didn’t deter hundreds upon hundreds of Black and Yellow supporters from filing into Constellation Field to watch as their home team-Houston SaberCats concluded their preseason with a contest against the Glendale Raptors, last year’s runner-up in MLR’s inaugural season.
From the get-go, those watching could tell there was a desire from the ‘Cats to try and right the wrongs of last week’s loss to the Austin Elite. This was most apparent when Fly-Half Sam Windsor decided to take an early shot at the posts, wind in his face or not. The ensuing attempt would make it through, putting Houston up 3-nil early in the contest (Windsor would finish the contest kicking 3/4).
However, as are most things in the game of rugby (and life), things wouldn’t get much easier from there. Glendale, known to have one of the most physical backlines in the league, put that reputation on display throughout, forcing the ‘Cats to commit multiple tacklers to their runners, thereby opening up the holes needed to crack Coach Neil Kelly’s defense, resulting in four total tries on the day.
That is not to say Houston’s defense didn’t show some marked improvement, even from last week. While Glendale may have found luck with a few head-turning splash plays, they were given all they could handle while attempting to cycle the ball out wide, as the ‘Cats showed a much more unified defensive front that consistently came up together to attack the ball carrier.
This predator like ferociousness tested the Raptors discipline, forcing the visitors to commit a litany of penalties, especially at the breakdown. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, much of those penalties in their favor failed to result in points.
Even with the result being what it was, we are continuing to see a ‘Cats squad with a whole host of potential. Beginning at the scrum, where Pat O’Toole (Hooker) captured Man of the Match Honors, one week after Charlie Connolly (Prop) did so against the Elite. With an all-Irish front row leading a pack that drew rave reviews last year, Coach Fitzpatrick (from the Isle of Erin himself) definitely has to be feeling good about where his first-eight are at this close to the regular season.
Meanwhile, in the backline, SaberCat fans finally got to see the Boy-Wonder Kieran Farmer play some extended minutes at Fullback while regular starter Zach Pangelinan is absent. While still raw in many ways, Farmer put some nice carries on tape heading into week one, which should bode well for his potential playing time in the future.
Then, as always, the Fijian-phenom Josua Vici dazzled fans and deceived defenders with his explosive power and crafty footwork. What makes this guy so dangerous is not just his size or experience, it’s the fact that he is able to keep his legs moving at full power, even with three defenders hanging onto him. Vici secured one of the three tries for the SaberCats on Saturday night, while helping to create many more opportunities from there.
The SaberCats finished their exhibition season at 2-2, with many areas for improvement, but with just as many to be excited about. As Major League Rugby 2019 gets set to begin, the question on everybody’s mind is: Where will Major League Rugby’s America’s Championship Shield end up this season?
Full Match Photo Album here
For tickets to upcoming games click here
Photo Credit: BigShotsSnapshots
HOUSTON SABERCATS SIGN PAUL HEALY AS HEAD COACH/DIRECTOR OF RUGBY Healy Brings
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