In the final tune-up before the start of the second regular season of Major League Rugby, the Houston SaberCats fought hard against the Glendale (Colo.) Raptors and a bone-chilling cold wind at Constellation Field before falling 36-21.
The Raptors, who finished second in the league last season, used a fast-paced passing game to keep pressure on the SaberCats throughout the match. The home team scored first on a penalty kick to go up 3-0 just 2 minutes into the game. Four minutes later, however, the Raptors responded with a try. The kick was good and the Raptors took a 7-3 lead.
The SaberCats closed to within a point with another penalty kick at 11:35 to make the score 7-6. The SaberCats missed a kick later in the half that would have put them ahead. They also kept pressure on the Raptors, nearly scoring a couple times, but the Raptors broke free and scored a try at 26:58. The kick failed and the Raptors were up 12-6. Five minutes later Glendale scored again and this time the kick was good for a 19-6 lead. Moments before the half, Houston scored a try and cut the lead to 19-11.
The SaberCats scored another kick to make the score 19-14 in the second half but then Glendale scored three more tries to take a 36-14 advantage. At the 78:00 mark the SaberCats scored a final try and made the kick to end the match 36-21.
“We spend a lot of time in their 22 come to their line but didn’t converse, a couple times held up,” said SaberCats hooker Pat O’Toole, who was named the team’s Man of the Game. “Feel like we could have gotten a bit more change out of our scrums. We transitioned from being on their line next thing they turn it over and be 70 yards down the pitch, so a little complacency there, so we need to be more clinical there and finish our chances and defense. Our defense let us down a little bit.”
Matthew Trouville, who plays backrow for Houston, said they gave the Raptors too many opportunities.
“I would say we need to put a consistent 80-minute effort instead of really good periods of play followed by a lapse in concentration that really cost us,” he said. “They scored some long-range tries today that were purely just positional mistakes or just switching off for half a second and a great team like Glendale’s going to do that; they’re going to punish you for doing that, so a consistent 80-minute effort is something we need to show next week.”
Next week starts the second regular season for Major League Rugby. The SaberCats open on the road at the Austin Elite in a match Saturday night at the Dell Diamond. Houston then travels to the San Diego Legion on Feb. 9. They return to Constellation Field Feb. 22 to host the Toronto Arrows. On March 2 the SaberCats host Rugby United New York, followed by a road game at the Seattle Seawolves. The SaberCats conclude their stay at Constellation Field on March 16 against the New Orleans Gold. On March 23 they open their new home, AVEVA Stadium, against the Utah Warriors.