By Liam Madigan-Fried
(Photo Credit: Judy Teasdale Photography) The Houston SaberCats have pulled themselves up to .500 on their official Exhibition Season after a 42-13 defeat of the James Bay Athletic Association. Josua Vici of the SaberCats took home Man of the Match honors.
The match began on pretty even footing for both teams, as each squad was able to quell potential splash plays by the other. Houston saw its first opportunity for points wasted when they elected not to kick for the posts and instead for touch. The ensuing lineout would remind fans in Texas that of one of the ‘Cats biggest weaknesses is throwing it in straight down the tunnel. Fortunately for Coach Fitzpatrick’s squad, James Bay’s own first opportunity for points wound up being a wide shanking kick that fell into the arms of Josua Vici.
The first score of the match would eventually come from the ever-entertaining Connor Murphy (9), who used a quick tap opportunity to put the SaberCats ahead. Zach Pangelinan quickly followed that up with a try of his own, before Player-Coach Sam Windsor would connect with the team’s first dropkick of the season to climb ahead 13-0.
Knowing their window to shorten the gap between them and the home team was closing, James Bay capitalized on ‘Cats penalty in the lineout (go-figure), resulting in a Mitch Richarson-delivered try. Their good fortune and momentum would continue on from there, after a yellow card would put Houston down a man. James Bay wouldn’t let the opportunity go to waste, allowing Blake Mahovic to get the team’s second try of the half, narrowing the gap to 13-10.
Just before the first half’s conclusion, the SaberCats would extend the lead to 20-10 with 0:00 left on the clock after a try from Josua Vici and a successful conversion from Sam Windsor.
If James Bay expected themselves to mount a furious comeback after halftime, they must’ve been sourly disappointed. Although they managed to secure the first points of the half through a successful penalty kick, the SaberCats controlled the pace and possession throughout, hardly allowing the visitors an opportunity to gain or sustain any kind of momentum.
While Houston saw an astounding 22 points scored in the second half, the closest James Bay would come to finding the try zone would be a held-up call after Blake van-Heyningen fought furiously through the stout Houston defense. Meanwhile, Houston would end up seeing a second try from Josua Vici, tries from Jack Riley and Kyle Sumsion, and a three-point kick from Zach Pangelinan.
Although us fans were once again deprived of the chance to see the ‘Cats play via live stream, based solely on the commentary you could tell this was a lot more cohesive and fluid of a team than we saw against Vancouver, especially in the second half when the time came to put the final nails in the coffin. However, the same glaring issues for this team remain heading into the regular season.
Lineouts: The SaberCats have lost a chance at a few key possessions now thanks to their tendency to not get the ball in straight on a lineout. We saw (or heard I guess) this week even how it even resulted in a try for James Bay. This isn’t going to fly against tougher competition.
Penalties: Jesus…16 penalties in the first half compared with two for James Bay. If Tom Brady played for this team you all would be having a stroke. Houston played with a man down not just once, BUT TWICE in this game. Although to fair, the second one was with the game far out of reach. But still, you will get your ass kicked by the Raptors and The Elite if you play a man down for thirty accumulative minutes.
As we here at Penguin Tundra prepare for the first edition of our MLR Power Rankings, it will be interesting to see how the results of the other six teams’ exhibitions compare with what’s going on at Sugar Land.
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