The first edition of Major League Rugby‘s ‘Battle of Texas’ has gone to Houston. Like a good old-fashioned Western, the SaberCats outscored Austin Elite by 50-38 in a match that saw an incredible nine tries scored in a wild second half.
Houston got off to a rocking start with Connor Murphy over the line within seconds of the kickoff. Osea Kolinisau was next to touch down, bursting on to a Conor Mills offload to grab a second try inside 10 minutes for the home side. Sam Windsor made both conversions and added a penalty to make it 17 unanswered points barely through the first quarter.
A dangerous tackle by Matt Trouville on Zac Mizell saw Houston’s eightman dispatched to the bin for a 10 minute timeout and Austin used the numerical overlap to their advantage. Quick hands down the line put Sione Fangaiuiha into the corner and just before the break a Timothée Guillimin cross-kick found Hanco Germishuys loitering with intent to close the gap to just seven.
Again it was Houston who stormed ahead after the intermission. Lindsey Stevens, Josua Vici, and Justin Allen each crossed the paint in quick succession. With the score now 36-10 the SaberCats looked to have wrapped up the result early but Austin were not finished just yet.
Fangaiuiha grabbed his second with Guillimin himself not far behind, both tries converted as the Elite struck for 14 points in the span of a couple minutes. That would be as close as they would come however, as Houston pulled away in the final quarter.
Windsor equaled his opposites heroics by charging through to score and then came a thrilling moment for crossover fans. Former NFL running back Joey Iosefa took the field and with his first touch of the ball left a trail of devastation as he powered home from 35 meters out.
Replacements Alex Faison-Donahoe and Knute O’Donnell picked up consolation tries in the final minutes to end the action-packed contest. It wasn’t enough to steal a losing bonus point but Austin had already done enough to grab the four-try bonus.
The Cats now have their first official MLR win under their belts and will head to the West Coast next weekend for a date with the San Diego Legion. For Austin it’s a second frustrating loss but they’ll have to regroup quickly as the New Orleans Gold arrive in Round Rock on Thursday evening.
HOUSTON 50 Tries – C. Murphy (1’), O. Kolinisau (10’), L. Stevens (42’), J. Vici (45’), J. Allen (48’), S Windsor (61’), J. Iosefa (67’) Cons – S. Windsor 6/7 (2’, 11’, 43’, 46’, 62’, 68’) Pens – S. Windsor 1/1 (22’) Yellow cards – M. Trouville (23’)
AUSTIN 38 Tries – S. Fangaiuiha 2 (26’, 55’), H. Germishuys (38’), T. Guillimin (57’), A. Faison-Donahoe (71’), K. O’Donnell (80’) Cons – T Guillimin 4/6 (56’, 58’, 72’, 80’) Pens – T. Guillimin 0/2
HOUSTON SABERCATS 1 Estevan Florez, 2 Lindsey Stevens, 3 Adam Macklin, 4 Charlie Hewitt, 5 Justin Allen, 6 Kyle Sumsion (capt.), 7 Chris Coyle, 8 Matt Trouville, 9 Connor Murphy, 10 Sam Windsor, 11 Alex Elkins, 12 Conor Mills, 13 Malacchi Esdale, 14 Josua Vici, 15 Osea Kolinisau
Replacements: 16 Diego Maquieira, 17 Petey Hepburn, 18 Jack Riley, 19 Robert Meeson, 20 Pago Haini, 21 Cecil Garber, 22 Dan Paul, 23 Joey Iosefa
AUSTIN ELITE 1 Chris Schade, 2 Mike Brown, 3 Mason Pedersen, 4 Ben Mitchell, 5 Victor Comptat, 6 Kyle Breytenbach, 7 Ross Deacon, 8 Hanco Germishuys, 9 Marcus Walsh, 10 Timothée Guillimin, 11 Sione Fangaiuiha 12 Andrew Suniula (capt.), 13 Sani Taylor, 14 Reece Czarnecki, 15 Zac Mizell
Replacements: 16 David LeMasters, 17 Siaosi Finau, 18 Robert Drummond, 19 Todd Clever, 20 Ned Hodson, 21 Knute O’Donnell, 22 Alex Faison-Donahoe, 23 Junior Naruma
Referee: Derek Summers (USAR) Assistants: Phil Akroyd (USAR) & Tim O’Gara (USAR)