‘We’re able to grind out wins,’ SaberCats tie franchise record, beat Hounds

May 19, 2024 | Uncategorized

By Aaron Wilson

Dominic Akina broke free into the open field Saturday night, creating a prime scoring opportunity as teammate Semou Smith trailed him a few yards to his right.
When the Chicago Hounds’ defense began to close in on Akina, he delivered the pitch right on time to Smith in the 60th minute. And Smith did the rest as he scooted in for an untouched go-ahead try in the second half of a 23-22 comeback victory at SaberCats Stadium.
“Just finish,” Smith said after scoring his first Major League try. “I kind of felt slow on that one. All I had to do was just finish. I walked into that one. I was due for that one, honestly.
“A lot of hard work and dedication just to get onto the field. Now that I got here, I don’t want to give it up. My biggest thing is effort, effort, effort.”
The SaberCats boosted their record to 10-1, tying their franchise record for wins established last season and remain in first place in the Western Conference division with a hard-fought triumph over a challenging Eastern Conference opponent.
This marks their fifth consecutive win since their first loss of the season against the New England Free Jacks.
“It’s quite special,” Nathan Den Hoedt said after earning his 50th cap in Major League Rugby. “We’re building nicely. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We’re taking it game by game. Ten wins, that’s great. It’s not going to mean much unless we keep it going and finish.”
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After leading 13-12 at halftime, the SaberCats lost their narrow lead during this back-and-forth match. They now have scored 348 points points versus 238 points allowed.
“Definitely impressive,” Ronan Murphy said. “It’s the way we wanted it to go. We take it week by week, game by game, just proud of the boys. I think 10-1 going into our second bye is a great place to be. We’ve got a lot to work on. To get a W against a team like Chicago, I’ll take that any day.”
Smith nearly had another try as the ball bounced away from him.
The SaberCats held on for the win. Now, they have an open week before returning to play with a road match June 1 against the Nola Gold.
A try by Pita Anae-Ah-Sue narrowed the Hounds’ lead, setting the stage for Smith’s decisive try.
“It’s a really quality win,” Smith said. “Chicago has a solid, physical side. We fell asleep. We’re not satisfied with this win. I know the boys aren’t. We had chances right before the try zone. We just couldn’t complete. We are playing outside of our DNA. We’re still not satisfied.
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“Ten wins, that’s insane. That’s crazy. Everybody has their eyes on us. We can’t get down. We have a bye week, and we need to make sure we’re still staying hungry during the bye week.”
The SaberCats built an early 10-0 lead off a try from Andre Warner and an AJ Alatimu conversion.
Following the match, Den Hoedt, Alatimu and Tiaan Erasmus were recognized for their 50th cap milestones.
Alatimu provided key scoring in the kicking game.
“We’re taking each game as it comes and it was good to get this win,” Alatimu said. “We have more games left, and, hopefully, we’re still playing at the end of this season. Ten wins is huge. Obviously, we’ve had some tough games, but this shows we’re able to grind out wins like this one.”