Photo Credit: Judy Teasdale Photography
January 6th 2018 saw the Seattle Saracens travelling to Houston to take on the new Major League Rugby's (MLR), Houston Sabercats in a much anticipated match at Constellation Field, Sugar Land, Texas. As this was as amateur vs professional exhibition game, Houston were starting as the favorites even though this was their 1st match in front of their home crowd.
Without some of the Sarries key players featuring on the game-day roster, a focused Saracens squad knew what they had to do to upset the host team on their home pitch. After the pregame media interviews and game day-hype was over with, the Sarries were excited to get on the pitch and show the Texans what they could do.
A US domestic club rugby record crowd of 5,224 filled the stadium and were perhaps just as excited as the players to get a look at what top level US rugby is going to look like this year.
From the opening kick-off the Saracens were able to hold the play in the Houston end. Knocking on the door several times, Seattle was not able to capitalize on Houston’s errors and finish with a try. The Sabercats were relentless in their attack. Boasting several Fijian internationals, the Sabercat's backs were able put the Saracens on their heels taking advantage of Seattle’s defensive mistakes.
The 1st try of the match was in Houston’s favor when former Seattle Saracen, Sam Windsor, slipped through the Seattle defense dotting the ball down under the posts in the 11th minute. Seattle was able to keep the pressure on the Sabercats, again keeping them inside their 22 for several minutes. Houston then opened up their backline and turned the corner on Seattle scoring again, going into the locker room at half time with a 36-0 score in favor of the host team.
Undeterred by the numbers on the scoreboard, Seattle knew that they were playing well and needed to clean up some errors to get themselves back into the game. A determined Sarries squad emerged from the locker room with as much energy as they had in the 1st half. Reserves Ryan Snider, Jonny Reid and William Rasileka added fresh legs to the Seattle squad and were able to hold Houston to one more try before getting on the scoreboard, scoring a penalty try from a dangerous tackle on winger Dion Crowder near the Sabercats try line. In extra time, the Houston squad dotted down a try near the sideline to finish with a 50-7 win.
A disappointed Seattle team shook hands with their hosts and then walked over to the eager crowd to thank them for the support. Taken aback by the incredible support from Saracens fans and the welcoming home crowd, an uplifted Seattle squad handed out handshakes and high fives to fans of all ages as Constellation Field was lit up by an impressive fireworks show.
At the after game dinner, Club President Kevin Flynn, said that the Sabercat's fans warm reception after the game made them feel as if the Sarries had won the game!
Extremely grateful for the experience and thankful to Sabercats CEO, Jeremy Turner and Coach Justin Fitzpatrick for inviting us to play in the Sabercats inaugural game, the Seattle Saracens travelled home an inspired team ready to take on the 2nd half of their regular season in the British Columbia Rugby Union.
Thanks to our Tour sponsors, The Martyn Family Foundation and the Penington Painting Company.
The Sarries next game will be an exhibition match with Central Washington University at Magnuson Park on January 13th before heading back into the regular season against James Bay on January 20th at Chuckanut Rugby Club’s pitch in Bellingham, Washington.