In the highly anticipated debut of Major League Rugby at the brand new Aveva Stadium in Houston, the Seawolves put on a dominating performance, earning a much-needed win and bonus point to strengthen their pressure on the top of the standings.
Seattle struck early in the first half and opened the flood gates in the second, on their way to a 52-12 slaughtering of the Sabercats. Brock Staller increased his lead-leading points to 128 while the forwards showed their strength behind their collective performances.
Ben Cima kicked off and the first rugby game in only the second rugby-specific stadium in the nation started late after a lightning delay.
The fierce Seawall was an immediate factor, forcing Houston to clear when they had possession. Seattle phases battled down into Houston Territory where a driving maul ended in a Houston penalty. Phil Mack took the quick tap and passed it out to Kellen Gordon for an easy try. Brock Staller’s kick is off the mark, and Seattle has the inaugural points at Aveva Stadium 5-0 (3rd minute).
A Houston mishandle after the restart and Seattle capitalize immediately, gaining possession back in Sabercat territory. Seawolves showing dominance early.
Staller was given the opportunity for a penalty kick and Seattle extended their lead 8-0 (12th minute).
Houston stays on defense as they have been for most of the game so far, but a sneaky up and under by Sam Windsor caught the Seawall flat-footed and retreating. Windsor froze the full back with a dummy pass and slid in for Houston’s first points. Windsor failed to convert his own try, and it is a three-point game 8-3 (16th minute).
Due to turf conditions on this new pitch, the ref decides for uncontested scrums for the remainder of the game, taking away a set-piece both teams have been successful in.
The Seawall was tested deep for the first time after a series of penalties pushed the Seawolves backwards. Houston had an opportunity to push a driving mall in, but the Seattle defense was too much as the maul went into touch after crossing the try line.
Defense is the theme as the first half wound down. With four minutes left in the half, Cima collected a favorable bounce from an up and under, and passed off the ground to a streaking Nakai Penny who dots it down for another five. Staller missed another conversion and Seattle is up 13-5 (37th minute).
Seattle picks up strong in the second half. Great running and ball retention kept the ball in the Houston half. The Seawall did its part in stalling any offense the Sabercats could muster.
Staller adds to his league-leading point tally with a pair of penalty kicks and a converted try off a beautiful interception as Seattle collected the first points of the second half 26-5. All in all, Seattle maintained pressure and kept Houston on their back foot, putting up 25 unanswered second half points behind that try by Staller, and more by Stephan Coetzee and Brad Tucker (Staller conversion).
Houston mustered up some solid offense and earned a Seattle yellow card, which stalled the Seawolves momentum. Using the man advantage, Thretton Palamo collected the ball and rumbled under the sticks for his first try in a Sabercats jersey. Even with Windsor’s conversion, Seattle’s lead is not threatened however, as they lead 38-12 (70th minute).
Seattle did not want to call it a night as a stepping Roland Suniula made his way through the Houston defense and scampered in to the try zone from the 22 meter mark. Staller’s kick was true and the lead extended to 45-12 (75th minute).
Matt Turner also had a long-range try that added to the Seawolves’ 39 second half points with another conversion from Staller. 52-12 (78th minute).
This win and bonus point moves Seattle (7-3-0 37TP) into second place behind NOLA Gold (8-2-0 43TP), who they host at Starfire Stadium in eight days. This revenge match will certainly have playoff implications as we are on the back half of the season. Every point against league leaders weighs heavily.
Houston will be looking to regroup in Toronto against the 6th place arrows Arrows.
Seattle Seawolves 52, Houston Sabercats 12
Tries: Kellen Gordon (3’), Nakai Penny (36’), Brock Staller (55′),Brad Tucker (62′), Roland Suniula (75′), Matt Turner (78′)
Conversions: Brock Staller 4/7 (56’), (63’), (76’), (79’)
Tries: Sam Windsor (16’), Thretton Palamo (69′)
Conversions: Sam Windsor 1/2 (70’)