The Houston SaberCats’ strong start helps them win at AVEVA Stadium

USA Rugby player Christian Dyer dives and scores a try in London, England

HOUSTON, TX – The Houston SaberCats gets their first-ever win at AVEVA Stadium. It was also the SaberCats first-ever win against the Arrows. This win happened because of the strong start Houston had in the game, especially in the second half. The Arrows did score the last three tries of the game, but it was too little, too late for the Arrows.

Houston SaberCats win an important home game at AVEVA Stadium

Three keys to the game

Houston SaberCats scored the first 29 points

The SaberCats’ Marno Redelinghuys made a terrific run in the 11-minute. This allowed Houston to get deep into Toronto’s half. As a result, Houston would score the first try of the game. The second try was all about power and trial and error. Toronto prevented Houston from scoring in two-three plays just before the actual try happened. JP Zeiss scored the second try of the game for Houston as a result.

Also, a big credit to Kiam Meadon, who made three conversions in the first half, including a first-half penalty. The first try started with a heads-up play by USA Rugby player Christian Dyer (pictured above). Dyer blocked the kick from Giuseppe Du Toit deep into the Arrows’ half. Then a great try was scored thanks to two South Africans.

Marno Redelinghuys delivered a terrific pass to Louritz van der Schyff, who scored in the 61-minute. It is important to note though that the try was only scored because Christian Dyer then stole the ball. Van Der Schyff would then score another try in the 63-minute as he got past the Arrows defence and scored his second try of the game.

The Houston SaberCats defence was excellent for most of the game

Much was said about the SaberCats offence. However, their defence did not give up a try until late in the game. Yes, a part of that was caused by errors committed by the Arrows. However, the bigger overview is the SaberCats pressuring the Arrows. I will list just a few examples of their excellent defensive structure.

  • The Houston SaberCats intercepted the ball deep in their zone from the Toronto Arrows. Riley Di Nardo was looking for Cole Keith but was unable to hold on to the ball.
  • Tremendous defence by Houston in the 38-minute forces Toronto to commit a turnover.

The two plays above played a big role in the Arrows not scoring a try in the first half. In the eighth minute, the SaberCats looked like they were able to score. Yes, the Arrows made a mistake, but a SaberCats player was there to make sure that they got the ball and so avoided giving up the first try of the game.

Also, late in the first half, Houston showed what they had for most of the game. They were well-organized even by being a man down. A tackle forced Sam Malcolm to commit a bad pass. Then Houston did well pressuring the Arrows and stole the ball from them.

Toronto Arrows did not play well with set-pieces

There were three-to-four occasions, where the Arrows’ lineouts were poor. In some of those lineouts, the player overthrew the ball. This allowed Houston to gain the advantage of the ball and advance through the Arrows’ half.

  • Andrew Quattrin’s throw was a bit high and went to Houston’s Muir.
  • Throwing away the ball in the 32-minute.
  • An overthrow in the 45-minute.

It seemed like the Arrows were getting too cute and trying to get that perfect play. There was really only one time they got the lineout right in the 24-minute. Rugby Canada player Lucas Rumball made a dangerous run but was unable to trouble Houston’s defence.

Other Factors

The Houston SaberCats got a bit of a scare late in the game. The Arrows scored three tries late in the game, including two from Lolani Faleiva. They were looking for more until the game ended. However, Houston got in trouble with yellow and red cards.

In particular, the red card was given because of a particularly dangerous play. Garrie Labuschagne’s tackle was quite high and the height of how the Arrows’ player went down warranted a red card. That ill-discipline could have cost them the game. Also, offensively, Toronto did not look sharp and was making mistakes, which was unlike them in previous games like against the NOLA Gold.

More significantly, Houston finally got their first-ever win against the Toronto Arrows. These teams have faced each other four times before, with Toronto winning all four of those games.

The win at Aveva Stadium and celebrities watching the game

In the video, above MMA star Derrick Lewis watched the game. In that video, this is what Lewis said about not playing rugby union because it was too dangerous:

“Yeah, my mom, she didn’t want me to play rugby, because she says it is too violent. Didn’t have protection, no head protection.”

Unfortunately, some of what Lewis said is true. Injuries in rugby union are a pressing concern and do need to be dealt with soon. Also, in both Canadian and American Football (generally known as gridiron football), there is head protection for both sports. Also, gridiron football tends to be more popular than rugby union in both Canada and USA.

However, he also mentions that Houston now has a professional rugby union team to support. This is something that was not true until recently.

What the game at AVEVA Stadium means for the playoff picture

The Toronto Arrows are, unfortunately, no longer holding an MLR 2022 playoff spot after losing at AVEVA Stadium. Fortunately, for Toronto, Rugby New York lost against the New England Free Jacks. However, New York City collected some bonus points, which allowed them to retake third place in the Eastern Conference. To make things a bit more difficult for the Arrows, all the three teams ahead of them have played one less game than Toronto.

Meanwhile, the Houston SaberCats are very much in the playoff race. They are tied for the Seattle Seawolves in points and are only two points behind second-place and defending MLR Shield champions, LA Giltinis, who have played one less game. It is important to note that Seattle currently holds the last playoff position because of points differential.

May is going to be a tough month for Houston travel-wise. They will play three of their next four games on the road and finish their season at home on June 5 against the Austin Gilgronis. Their next game on May 8 will be against the San Diego Legion at SDSU Sports Deck. The game will be shown live at 7:00 p.m. ET on The Rugby Network, FOX 5 San Diego. It will also be shown on tape delay on AT&T SportsNet.

The Arrows have one less game to play. However, what benefits them is three of their next four games will be played at home. Their next game, also on May 8, will have some playoff implications. The game will take place at York Lions Stadium on May 8 at 12:00 p.m. ET. It will be shown live on The Rugby Network and TSN. Hopefully, it will be televised nationally on TSN like it has been for all the other home games for Toronto this year.


Main Picture Credit:
Embed from Getty Images