Houston SaberCats flanker Cecil Garber is tackled by New York players Saturday during the rugby game at Constellation Field. The SaberCats won 39-38. (Photo by Joe Southern)The Houston SaberCats staked themselves to a 33-17 halftime lead and then hung on to win 39-38 last Saturday at Constellation Field.
Sam Windsor kicked a 50-meter penalty kick in the 77th minute to make it a two-score game at 39-31. New York then scored in the 79th minute but the SaberCats ran out the clock to claim the win.
After giving up a New York penalty kick in the 4th minute, the SaberCats came roaring back with trys by Windsor in the 7th minute, Zach Pangelinan in the 20th minute, and Connor Murphy in the 23rd minute to give Houston a 21-3 lead.
New York scored a try in the 26th minute, but the SaberCats responded with a try by Pangelinan a minute later, and a try by Josua Vici in the 30th minute. New York came back with a try in the34th minute, but the SaberCats ended the half with a try by Vici to make the score 33-17. In the first half, the SaberCats attempted three penalty kicks, a new strategy for them.
“We tried to mix it around. We don’t want to be too predictable. We have to be able to play many different ways and these games allow us to try different ways to play the game,” SaberCats Coach Justin Fitzpatrick said.
The game turned into a control for possession in the second half. New York added a try in the 49th minute, cutting the SaberCats lead to 33-24. Windsor made a penalty kick in the 54th minute to provide a little breathing room at 36-24.
New York would not give up and made it 36-31 with a try in the 71st minute, setting the stage for Windsor’s dramatic long kick.
“I was just thinking, put it through the middle of the goalposts. The kick before I missed it by 10 meters. I had to make amends for that” Windsor said. “That’s rugby. You have to take the opportunities when they appear.”
“We tested the depth of our squad tonight. We lost a little bit of composure in the second half after a strong first 40 minutes. We stuck to our guns and did what it took to win the game. So, I am very pleased overall,” Fitzpatrick said.
With the exhibition nearing an end, the SaberCats are pleased with where they are.
“New York is a great team. They have won numerous titles. This was a good challenge for us. For us it’s about building momentum,” Windsor said. “We need to tighten things up for the regular season. Improve our discipline. We still have four games to go before the regular season, and when it starts, we should be cooking with gas.”
The SaberCats play their next two matches at Constellation Field. They host the New Orleans Gold on Feb. 24 and the Ontario Arrows on March 3. Matches start at 7 p.m. The SaberCats are 5-2 at Constellation Field during the exhibition season.