The Houston SaberCats fought hard but came up short against the Uruguay national team, 32-24. Uruguay is ranked 18th in the world and has to beat Canada in a home and home series to be invited to the World Cup to be held in Japan in 2019.
The SaberCats, one of just a few club teams given an opportunity to play a national team, started out slow. Josua Vici was given a yellow card in the 9th minute and Uruguay was quick to take advantage of having extra man as they scored on a penalty kick by Rodrigo Silva. Ignacio Dotti scored a try and Silva Tthe SaberCats immediately responded as a minute later Malacchi Esdale scored a try and Zach Pangelinan added the conversion to cut the lead to 10-7.
After an Uruguay try and conversion, the SaberCats crept closer in the 33rd minute as Pangelinan scored a try and kicked the conversion to make the score 17-14. Uruguay added a penalty kick to make the halftime score 20-14.
Uruguay scored a try and conversion in the 43rd minute to take an early second half lead 27-14. The SaberCats’ Pangelinan kicked a penalty through the uprights for 3 points and the score was 27-17.
Uruguay added a try in the 52nd minute to increase their lead to 32-17. The kick was unsuccessful.
In the last minute of extra time the SaberCats moved the pile about 10 meters with Connor Murphy hanging on to the ball in the middle of it, and they crept past the goal line as time was running out. The Pangelinan kick was good, and the final score was 32-24.
“We didn’t perform as well as we would have liked. We need to cut down on our yellow cards, mostly by giving the referee a little more respect. We have the firepower and the skills, now we just need to be more disciplined,” assistant coach and fly half Sam Windsor said. “Uruguay is 18th in the world and I think we earned their respect. I think we gave them a bit of a shock in the first half as they realized we weren’t going to be an easy team to beat. The last try was really big. To be able to out-power them after 80 minutes was really big. It shows we can finish a game strong.”
The SaberCats will play James Bay at 7 p.m. Saturday at Constellation Field.