‘They started off quick, we started off too slow,’ SaberCats absorb first loss of season

Apr 14, 2024 | Uncategorized

By Aaron Wilson

When the SaberCats trudged off the field Saturday night, they knew exactly why they came up short against the New England Free Jacks.
Absorbing a 47-35 loss marks the SaberCats’ first defeat of the season as they had been the last undefeated team in Major League Rugby.
Despite an exciting try from Christian Dyer off a great pitch from AJ Alatimu to open the match’s scoring, the SaberCats ultimately fell behind and couldn’t catch up against the defending league champions and current Eastern Conference division leaders.
“They started off quick, we started off too slow,” SaberCats wing Jeremy Misailegalu said. “We left a few points out there. It does add up. We’ve definitely got to learn from this one. If you’re going to lose, you want to lose early, not later in the season. We just keep our heads down, keep grinding and come out strong next week.”
Why did the SaberCats ultimately lose the match?
“Discipline, discipline, discipline, discipline, discipline,” Misailegalu said. “They’re the defending champs for a reason. You can’t let the defending champs get ahead of you.”
The SaberCats fell to 5-1 overall while the Free Jacks advanced to 5-1 after building a 28-18 halftime lead.
The SaberCats were down 40-18 in the second half before scoring 17 unanswered points. The comeback attempt was unsuccessful as the Free Jacks held on for the win.
“Definitely, our defense has to be better,” SaberCats lock-back row Johan Momsen said. “You give up 47 points, and it doesn’t matter how much you do attacking on offense. It’s always a big job to catch up. We’ve got a lot to work on. We were a little rusty after the bye week, but there’s no excuses.
“A lot to work on, on defense. Our attack was firing decently, but it’s tough to come back. The boys fought until the end. The biggest fixes will be on defense. 100 percent, we have a target on our back. We’ve got keep working hard. We can’t be complacent.”
Tries from the Free Jacks’ Malakai Hala-Ngatai, Wian Conradie and Jayson Potroz led to a 21-8 first-half lead.
Missed kicks after tries from Misailegalu and leading scorer Davy Coetzer represented squandered opportunities on a windy night that led to some misfires.
The Free Jacks’ speed and open-field passing spelled the difference.
Coetzer scored his second try as the SaberCats finished with a season-high five tries, including late scores from Line Latu and Tiaan Erasmus. The Free Jacks still earned a bonus point victory.
“I think they stepped up physically, and we had too many mistakes,” Coetzer said. “Kudos to them. They came out firing. They matched up in all aspects of their game. I thought in the second half we fought the fight. At the end of the day when you make mistakes and let them score tries, it’s a tough team to come back against.
“I’m proud of the boys’ efforts to get back in the game, but we made too many errors. They were the better team on the day. We’ve definitely got to go back to the drawing board and look at the game. It’s a lot of things to work on. The main thing is to try to bounce back.”
The SaberCats have a road game next week against Old Glory DC, which has a win over New England under its belt.
“Slow start by us, strong start by them,” Dominic Akina said. “We’ve got to capitalize early, in the beginning to get momentum. We put ourselves in a bad spot trying to catch up. We knew going in that they were bringing line speed.
“We were trying to match that. We had some positives throughout the game. We’re going to take that into the next match, scratch the mistakes and go into the next game and play the way we can play.”