Seattle Tames SaberCats On The Road

03-Jun-2018

Image Courtesy: Bigshots Snapshots Media Group

In balmy conditions, the Seattle Seawolves faced off against the Houston SaberCats in their second match on the road. Setting their sights on their fifth win of the season, the Seawolves looked to continue their momentum coming off a strong win against New Orleans at home. Thanks to a solid effort from the ‘Seawall’, Seattle was able to shut down the SaberCats with a final score of 20-7.

The SaberCats pounced on possession early and were within reach of the Seattle try-line several times throughout the first half. Seattle remained un-phased under pressure, launching off the line and cutting off the SaberCats’ attack. The Seawolves’ tenacious tackling often put Houston on their heels and forced the SaberCats kick to safety. The stadium had a scare during one such kick early on in the game when Vili Toluta’u and Matt Trouville both went up in the air for the ball. A collision had both the players on the ground for a moment, but both recovered and got right back into the game.

Seattle’s first points of the game came in the 24th minute following a Seawolves scrum. Shalom Suniula popped an inside pass to William Rasileka who fought his way close to the try-line. Houston was penalized for hands in the ruck and the Seawolves opted for points. Brock Staller’s kick was successful and the Seawolves struck first 3-0. 

The Seawolves momentum was marred through the first half by miscues in the scrum, but the away squad stayed resilient all the way to the break. Following a Houston lineout in the 40th minute, Toluta’u made the steal and got the ball back for the Seawolves. Quick offloads and hard runs from both the forwards and backs put Staller in a good position for extra points following a penalty on Houston in extra time. Staller slotted it through and brought Seattle to 6-0 over Houston to close out the first half.

Seattle looked to string together more continuous phases to address their first-half offensive woes. “When we get three or four phases, we’re getting good go-forward,” said Phil Mack speaking to CBS Sports’ Stacy Paetz at half-time. “It’s a matter of playing rugby in the right areas and keeping the ball.” 

The Seawolves did just that in the 44th minute off their own line-out. Setting up the maul, Seattle drove the SaberCat’s pack backward and allowed the Seattle back line to set up at depth. In a beautiful display of backline play, Will Holder popped the ball inside to a fast-approaching Peter Tiberio and the Seawolves winger dotted it down for the first try of the game. Staller’s kick was good and the Seawolves extended their lead to 13-0.

Seattle struck again in the 51st minute off the SaberCats scrum. Following a pick out of their own scrum, Eric Duechle punished the SaberCats eight-man for his decision to run the ball. A dominant tackle forced a fumble that put the ball right into Mack’s hands. Backing himself against the scattered Houston defense, Mack sold the dummy pass and found the try zone for the Seawolves’ second try of the day. Staller put up two more from the sideline, bringing the score to 20-0.

The SaberCats were allowed some room to breathe after the Seawolves got hit with two yellow cards in a span of five minutes. Playing two men down with Barkwill and Toluta’u in the sin bin, Seattle was vulnerable to an overloaded Houston attack. Although the Seawolves were able to hold back the SaberCats for several phases, they eventually gave under Houston’s pressure. Relinquishing their first points of the game, SaberCat Charlie Hewitt found a gap in Seattle’s try-line defense with a pick and go. Windsor’s kick ends the shutout in the 61st minute as Houston inched towards Seattle’s lead, 20-7.

In the 64th minute, Houston attempted to catch the Seawolves off guard with a kick pass over Seattle’s backs. Malacchi Esdale collected the ball and took off for the try-line, but with Suniula in pursuit, he chased down the Esdale and made a diving tackle that forced the SaberCat Wing into touch. After a successful lineout, Holder relieved Seattle of the imposed pressure by kicking upfield to find touch. Refusing to yield any more points to Houston, the Seawolves finished the match with a final score of 20-7.

The Seawolves continue their quest on the road when they return to the Lone Star state on Friday, June 8th  to face Austin Elite Rugby at 6 PM PDT. Domestic viewers can tune in via ESPN+ and international viewers may watch through Major League Rugby’s Facebook stream.