Houston SaberCats 50 - Seattle Saracens 7: Attendance 5,000+ for First MLR Preseason Match
Houston we have lift off! The SaberCats got the Major League Rugby preseason off to a good start with a comprehensive 50-7 win over Seattle Saracens. With UBCOB Ravens coming next week then the Uruguay national team it's a good test of what level to expect from the MLR. It definitely looks top level for North American rugby after this preview.
The Fijian influence was very much apparent in the scoring, the first try was setup by Josua Vici with Irish #10 Sam Fowler finishing it off. In the build up to the Olympics Vici recorded the highest fitness score for the Fijian team hitting a 22 in the yo-yo test. Josua scored the second try of the match to put Houston up 14-0.
Malacchi Esdale, a football player from University of Miami and University of Central Florida where he played Safety, scored next to make it 19-0. Connor Murphy, the scrum half from London Irish, added one more, 24-0. Sam Windsor scored a second try with some setup play by the Fijian backline players, 29-0. At the 40' mark fullback, Zach Pangelinan scored and converted for a 36-0 scoreline. Pangelinan, born in Guam, has 2 caps for USA as backup to Chris Wyles.
Pagopagohokma Haini, a backrow player of Samoan origin, came off the bench and scored the first try through the forwards after six from the backs, score 43-0. Seattle finally got on the board with a strong effort from Fijian sub William Rasileka that led to a penalty try. In extra time Pagopagohokma Haini scored his second try for a 50-7 final.
Reports indicate the attendance was over 5,000 so a fantastic start for the Houston SaberCats franchise and the MLR league. Next up are the UBCOB Ravens.
Houston SaberCats vs Seattle Saracens Starting Rosters
Houston get their first real test as a team outside of playing local club teams. Seattle are a middle of the pack team in the BC Premier and should give them a good match. Seattle have Aladdin Schirmer at #8, an all star in any domestic league and a member of the USA national squad. Seattle are missing Psalm Wooching and Shalom Suniula but their backline of Crowder, Garrity, Combs, Stowers has been consistent all season.
Houston have a few familiar names, #8 Matt Trouville played for Seattle last season as did their talented Irish flyhalf, Sam Windsor. Osea Kolinisau their big name signing, former Fiji 7s captain, lines up at outside centre.
Houston SaberCats Prepare for Nine Game Exhibition Schedule with Seattle Saracens Match This Weekend
You have to hand it to the SaberCats, they know how to set up a preseason schedule, they're miles ahead of any other MLR franchise in that regard. The local Seattle Seawolves team haven't even announced any exhibition games yet and will just be assembling mid-January after Houston has had two exhibition matches under their belt.
The SaberCats are even hosting the Uruguay national team the weekend before they play Canada. They're looking big time and whether that will translate to wins on the field in the regular season and a possible inaugural championship is a wait and see matter.
The signs are all there for a successful season, you just have to look at their game day preparations for this weekend's match.
3:00pm Tailgate Opens
3:30-5:30pm Live DJ & Saberkittens
5:30-6:30pm Live Band Space Monkeys
6:00pm Stadium Doors & Fan Zone Open
7:00pm Match Kick-off
8:40pm After Match Fireworks
Yes they have a pregame tailgate party, DJ, Live Band and Saberkittens. Wait there's more, fireworks afterwards. We're not sure what Saberkittens are but Google tells us they may look like this. Might get a few more Texans into the seats to watch rugby.
Houston seem to be doing everything Texas style, bigger and better. The stadium is even located in a city called Sugar Land, can't make that stuff up. It's in the greater Houston Metropolitan area. Our early prediction is Houston SaberCats will be a success this year on and off the field. from Fort Bend Star
The Houston SaberCats open their inaugural exhibition season with a game against the Seattle Saracens of the British Columbia Rugby Union on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Constellation Field in Sugar Land.
The SaberCats will be a member of Major League Rugby which includes the Austin Elite Rugby, Glendale (Colo.) Raptors, NOLA (New Orleans) Gold, San Diego Legion, Seattle Seawolves (a different team than the Saracens) and the Utah Warriors. The league begins play in the last week of April. The SaberCats will play a nine-game exhibition schedule before starting league play.
The SaberCats head coach is Justin Fitzpatrick. Previously, Fitzpatrick was Director of Rugby for the Seattle Saracens, and he played 26 games for the Ireland national team, including games in the 1999 World Cup. Fitzpatrick also played 156 games with the Ulster Rugby team, which was the first Irish team to win the European Cup.
Sam Windsor is the assistant coach and will play fly half back for the SaberCats. Windsor has been playing rugby since he was seven.
“I grew up playing both soccer and rugby, but my father was a rugby player, so I focused on rugby,” Windsor said. “I have played in Australia, London, other parts of England, Ireland and now in Houston.”
The SaberCats have several stars on their roster. Osea Kolinisau was the captain of the Fiji Olympic gold medal winning team in 2016 in Rio. The Fiji Olympic team selected him as their flag bearer in Rio. Kolinisau, 31, first played for the Fijian national team in 2008 and he led them to back to back World Series titles in 2015 and 2016.
“Osea is a great player. The fans will really like his style of play,” Windsor said.
Jamie Dever joined the team from the Cambridge Rugby Club. He also has experience on the Ireland under 19 national team. Adam Macklin of the Belfast Harlequins also signed with the team. Macklin played for Ireland in the 2009 World Junior Championships.
“Both Dever and Macklin were stars as young players on the Ireland national teams,” Windsor said.
Malacchi Esdale was a safety on the University of Miami football team, but is playing professional rugby now. He recently played with the Orlando Griffins.
“Malacchi is a former college football player who has adapted to rugby very quickly,” Windsor said.
There are two types of rugby. In the Olympics, the teams play with 7 players on each side. Other competitions, including Major League Rugby, play with 15 players on each team.
“A rugby player needs to be able to run, catch and tackle,” Windsor said. “In most games, the 15 players who start the game are in for the whole 80 minutes. They need to be in shape. A player will typically run between four and six miles per game.”
The SaberCats will play a nine-game exhibition schedule at Constellation Field, the home of the Sugar Land Skeeters baseball team.
“We think hosting the exhibition season is a good thing to do and a great thing to try,” Skeeters’ president Jay Miller said. “We can’t host the regular season games in April as that would be too much pressure on the field. We are excited about having Saturday night games in January and February. We are expecting 3,000 to 4,000 fans to come out.”
Miller played rugby in an adult league after he graduated from college.
“The fans are going to love it,” Miller said. “I think once they see a game, they are going to come back again.”
The exhibition schedule is:
Jan. 6 – Seattle Saracens
Jan. 13 – Vancouver Ravens
Jan. 20 – Uruguay National Team
Jan. 27 – James Bay Athletic Club
Feb. 3 – Capital Selects
Feb. 10 – Chicago Lions
Feb. 17 – New York Athletic Club
Feb. 24 – New Orleans Gold
March 3 – Ontario Arrows
All games are at Constellation Field in Sugar Land and begin at 7 p.m.