Nine tries and 80 minutes of mayhem ended in a draw at Archbishop Shaw Field on Saturday as the New Orleans Gold and Houston SaberCats finished the game on 32 points apiece in Major League Rugbypreseason action. With the pitch still under renovation a dusty surface made for interesting pictures. Numerous errors from both sides affected continuity and the SaberCats were left kicking themselves after missing six shots at goal, any one of which would have been enough for the win.
Houston got off to a fast start with their forwards grabbing an early edge at the set piece. Zach Pangelinan took three points from the scrum penalty and immediately after the Cats were on the rampage again. Robert Meeson was felled desperately short of the line but Pago Haini was there to follow up for the try. Pangelinan’s conversion rang off the uprights as New Orleans alarm bells rang through the air.
The home side fought back and looked to be on their way to a score but Houston won a turnover and disaster struck the Gold. Malacchi Esdale broke clear inside his own 22 and ran nearly the length of the field untouched to dot down under the posts. This time Pangelinan couldn’t miss and Houston were three scores up inside the first quarter.
Taylor Howden kicked off the New Orleans revival with a penalty goal just a couple minutes later, and added a second not long after that. Determined to conjure another score before the half, the NOLA forwards took it upon themselves to hammer ahead. After countless phases of one-pass rugby the SaberCats defense was sucked in and the door was wide open for JP Eloff to round the defense and grab a vital score for his team.
New Orleans gathered their thoughts at the break and fired another salvo to start the second half. This time Houston’s defense left a gap on the post and Holden Yungert didn’t need a second invitation, tearing through the hole and reaching out of the tackle to give the Gold an unlikely lead.
From the restart the SaberCats responded. Osea Kolinisau inspired a line break and Conor Mills was in for the try. Josua Vici was next to touch down. Sam Windsor’s high ball landed in Kolinisau’s hands and despite being clear to the corner he handed the ball off to Vici in support to do the honors. A third try cam from a loose Howden pass that Mills took to pay-dirt for his second to make the score 32-20 heading into the final quarter.
There would be no runaway victory, however. Tim Maupin, in his Gold debut, mimicked Mills and intercepted a Windsor pass to score a seven-pointer. Sebastián Kalm was the hero next, tearing around the left sideline and barging straight through the last defender to score a wonderful individual try. The conversion proved too difficult for Howden but the scores were now level with 10 minutes on the clock.
Windsor had two opportunities to win it for the SaberCats. The first was a long-range effort from nearly halfway that drifted to the right of the posts, the second a sitter from 30 meters and straight in front that somehow didn’t find its intended home. Extra kicking practice will surely be in order for Pangelinan and Windsor during the week after combining for only three successful kicks out of nine attempts.
The SaberCats now have a week off before one final warm-up match against the San Diego Legion at Torero Stadium. New Orleans are straight back at it with back-to-back fixtures against Austin Elite, the first at home next weekend followed by a trip to Texas the week after.
Tries – J. Eloff (34’), H. Yungert (42’), T. Maupin (64’), S. Kalm (68’)
Cons – T. Howden 3/4 (35’, 43’, 64’)
Pens – T. Howden 2/2 (22’, 28’)
Tries – P. Haini (9’), M. Esdale (19’), C. Mills 2 (44’, 60’), J. Vici (52’)
Cons – Z. Pangelinan 1/4 (19’), S. Windsor 1/1 (61’)
Pens – Z. Pangelinan 1/2 (8’), S. Windsor 0/2
1 Hubert Buydens, 2 Eric Howard, 3 Cam Falcon, 4 Myles McQuone, 5 John Sullivan, 6 Vince Jobo, 7 Matt Hughston, 8 Sebastián Kalm, 9 Holden Yungert, 10 Taylor Howden (capt.), 11 Moni Tonga’uiha, 12 JP Eloff, 13 Tim Maupin, 14 Bobby Johns, 15 Michael Baska
Replacements: 16 Ben Tarr, 17 Derrek van Klein, 18 Matt Wirken, 19 Todd Dupre, 20 John Stapleton, 21 Peceli Rinakama, 22 Joey Sok, 23 Alec Janotka, 24 Will Crawford, 25 Jojo Tikoisuva
1 Adam Macklin, 2 Diego Maquieira, 3 Paul Mullen, 4 Charlie Hewitt, 5 Robert Meeson, 6 Kyle Sumsion (capt.), 7 Cecil Garber, 8 Pago Haini, 9 Connor Murphy, 10 Sam Windsor, 11 Josua Vici, 12 Conor Mills, 13 Osea Kolinisau, 14 Malacchi Esdale, 15 Zach Pangelinan
Replacements: 16 Lindsey Stevens, 17 Jake Turnbull, 18 Petey Hepburn, 19 Justin Allen, 20 Chris Coyle, 21 Chris Slater, 22 Kieran Farmer, 23 Alex Elkins, 24 Chris Parker, 25 Matt Trouville
Referee: Derek Summers (USAR)
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