By Liam Madigan-Fried
Before they attempt to spoil Canada’s World Cup hopes, the Uruguay National Rugby team is heading to Houston to see if it can stand a test against one of the U.S.A’s newest and most exciting clubs, The Houston Sabercats.
Despite starting their exhibition season strong by cruising to a 50-7 win over the Seattle Saracens, the Black&Yellow fell back to Earth last Saturday, getting narrowly defeated by the Vancouver Ravens 26-23. Although the Houston Squad seemed to be in control heading into halftime with a 17-10 lead, it ultimately wasn’t meant to be, as they couldn’t stave off a furious second half comeback by a Ravens squad dotted with capped Canadian players.
The difference may have been made in the first half when Fullback Zach Pangelinan missed on his first two try-conversion attempts. Although the Sabercats still held a 10-0 lead at that point, it would eventually come back to haunt them. This is something the ‘Cats have to avoid before taking on their toughest opponent yet with Uruguay, which is missing out on points when they’re right there for the taking.
And it’s not just kicks that I’m talking about. After a breakdown penalty opened the door for the Ravens to take a 26-23 lead via kick, the Sabercats found themselves in a similar position to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, except this didn’t have a happy ending that would send chairs flying backwards across an entire region. A last ditch attempt by the ‘Cats backline to secure the game winning try ultimately fell short, and the SaberCats tasted defeat.
If Houston intends to work out the chinks in its armor, then it better do it fast, because a squad like Uruguay is not going to come in soft as they prepare for a RWC Qualifier against Canada next week, and playing two men down through part of the first and second halves due to yellow cards will be sure to yield even worse results than it did against Vancouver.
So what exactly is Uruguay bringing to the table? Well, for starters, they’re a National Rugby Team, so it’s safe to assume they’ve faced their fair share of stiff competition together, at least at some point. This might not seem like biggest point to make, but even with Uruguay being one of the newer National teams, this Houston squad didn’t even exist a year ago. The fact that they’ve come on this far as a unit together is nothing short of inspiring.
Other than the edge on experience playing together, Uruguay brings with them a host of capable players who Coach Fitzpatrick will have to be mindful of as he prepares his men for Saturday’s matchup. Rodrigo Capó Ortega, for instance, despite having mulled retirement was listed on the travel roster for his team’s qualifier against Canada. Ortega is currently a player with Castres in the French Pro 14, and has scored nine tries and 45 points in total for Uruguay in his career. Watching him and Sam Windsor, Houston’s resident Old Boy Vet…from England, square off is going to be entertaining. That is, if Ortega even plays.
More than likely, Uruguay will be fielding some of its reserves ahead of next week’s qualifier. So expect to see names such as Augustin Ormaechea, a young but talented scrum-half who left his home in Uruguay in 2013 to play for Stade Montois in France, get some serious minutes as well as others such as Juaquin Prada (Center), Diego Magno (Flanker), and Alejandro Nieto (8-Man).
If Houston is to win this game, it’s by playing to their strengths. Control possession of the ball by not allowing Uruguay the opportunity to counter-ruck, win in the scrum, and for God’s sake, score some damn points when you’re knocking at the door of the try-line. If Uruguay is to win this game, they will need to outpace Houston in the passing game, making sure they’re playing too fast for the American competitors to keep up. They’ll also need to jump out to an early lead, because if Houston is able to head into halftime in the lead, this time, they might not give it up.
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Penguin Tundra Sports Blog was created in 2016 by a very bored college student who was obsessed with Rugby and Football. That same college student knew how to write pseudo-intelligently, so what better way to show off than to create a blog. Along your journey though the Tundra's domain, you may come across outlandish opinions, horrible spelling errors, and some shit that is just outright wrong. Well then, you should comment, give my blog more attention, and we will have our day in internet court. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy talking about sports as much as I do.
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