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 Rugby FC Los Angeles

SaberCats Win Bruising Battle in Humid Houston, 29-12

June 8, 2024 - Major League Rugby (MLR)
Rugby FC Los Angeles News Release


Rugby Football Club Los Angeles faced off against the Houston SaberCats at SaberCats Stadium in the Lone Star state on Saturday, June 8, hoping to stay in the playoff race with a win against the top team in Major League Rugby.

Early summer Houston weather and temperatures in the mid-90s couldn't stifle the scrappy rugby, with both teams battling back and forth for 80 minutes of exciting but bruising rugby. The SaberCats came away with the win, 29-12.

The SaberCats made their mark in the 6th minute with a chain of passes between wing Jeremy Misailegalu (No. 11) full-back Drew Wild (No. 15), and scrum half Andre Warner (No. 9) who went over for the try. Fly-half Devy Coetzer (No. 10) missed the conversion but the SaberCats led 5-0 in the 8th minute. Coetzer would control the kicking game in the first half but RFCLA, with multiple players making strategic kicks, would fight back well.

In the 13th minute, RFCLA fly-half Jason Emery (No. 10) took a quick tap penalty and passed the ball to No. 8 Semi Kunatani, who made one of his famous offloads to hooker Ben Strang (No. 2) for the try. Emery made the conversion for a 7-5 lead.

The referee awarded the SaberCats a penalty try after a SaberCats maul in the 18th minute, and Coetzer's conversion made it 12-7, SaberCats.

Capitalizing on an RFCLA handling error minutes later, Coetzer picked up a loose ball and found open space, running more than 50 meters for the try. His conversion made it 19-7.

A burst by RFCLA outside center Will Leonard (No. 13) in the 33rd minute put RFCLA back into their opponents' half. A kick by substitute forward Max Katjijeko (No. 20), followed by a Strang lineout on the 5-meter line and a maul, led to a try by lock Jason Damm (No. 4), his seventh of the season. Emery missed the conversion; the score was 19-12.

Going into the half, both teams - who have averaged four tries per match this season - showed no sign of slowing down.RFCLA had controlled 70 percent of territory. and made 45 tackles to the SaberCats 76.

HALFTIME

In the 49th minute, the referee ruled a shoulder-to-head tackle by Bruce Kauika-Peterson warranted a red card, and the SaberCats extended their lead with the penalty kick, making it a 22-12 match.

The SaberCats would have a one-man advantage for 20 minutes, and the tempo of the match slowed in the heat. In the 51st minute, RFCLA's Henry Speight (No. 22) came on for his MLR debut, replacing wing Jack Shaw (No. 11); Wilton Rebolo (No. 16) replaced prop. Dane Zander (No. 1) and Conor Young (No. 18) came in for Maughan.

The substitutes helped RFCLA slow the SaberCats down, as the backs combined with forwards to create opportunities. Damm forced a turnover in the 65th minute to keep his team's momentum going, and a kicking battle slowed the game down as RFCLA waited for their player to return after the 20-minute red card period. RFCLA held the SaberCats at bay and following another Kunatani burst in the 70th minute, substitute forward Bruce Yun (No. 19) came on to give RFCLA 15-men again.

Penalties hurt the SaberCats chances in the second half, but they would cost RFCLA the match, with Emery going off with a yellow card in the 74th minute after Damm made a try-saving tackle. A penalty try after a foul by Damm earned him a yellow and gave the SaberCats a 29-12 win.

RFCLA now have a 4-8-1 record. Their next match, their last of the season at home, is against the New Orleans Gold at home at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carslon, California, on June 16, at 3 pm local time (PST).

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