The Houston SaberCats hosted the Utah Warriors in what will be one of only 2 Thursday night games in the MLR before their move to their rugby specific stadium shortly and they signed off with a hard fought win in a tight game.
Houston started the game well with the ever dependeble Sam Windsor slotting over an early penalty to give the SaberCats the reward for their initial pressure. They then capitilized further through fullback Zach Pangelinan as he showed great strength handing off the Utah defender to touch down.
3 minutes later the SaberCats scored again with hooker Pat O’toole latched onto a spilled ball and showed great pace to score under the posts and leave the score at 17-0 after just 15 minutes.
The warriors needed to respond and they did. Just before the water break on the 19th minute, US Eagles prop Angus MacLellan went over in the corner to touch down for the Warriors with O’Malley kicking an impressive conversion out on the touch line to make it 17-7 at the water break.
O’Malley kicked another penalty on the 26th minute to make it a one score game and keep the Warriors in the game and it was at this point that the momentum looked to be swinging in the Warriors direction but the SaberCats took the sensible option and kicked another penalty on the 33rd minute to keep them at arms length and leave the score 20-10.
Right before half time the Warriors dominance in the latter half of the first half paid dividends and Gannon Moore collected a great offload to score a well finished try, leaving just 3 points between the sides at half time with the score being 20-10.
The second half was a little slower to get going and did not initially live up to the pace of the first half. The Warriors probed in the opening minutes but the SaberCats defence was terrific all night and held up to it especially whilst defending set pieces. Justin Fitzpatrick looks to have had a really positive influence in how they are set up in a defence structure at scum time in particular but also at lineouts.
The second half proved to be a battle of the kickers with Sam Windsor (who would go on to win the man of the match award) trading blows with Utah Warriors kicker Tim O’Malley. Twelve of the second halves 19 points came from the boot of either Windsor or O’Malley.
The ever impressive Lance Williams scored a try for the Warriors on the 78th minute leaving them trailing the SaberCats by two points with w minutes to play. The Warriors threw everything at them in the final moments of the game but credit to the SaberCats defence who hung on for their second win of the season.
The final score was 29 – 27 to Houston SaberCats.