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The Houston Sabercats outgunned the Austin Elite 50-38 Saturday at Dyer Stadium in Houston. The win improves the Cats to 1-1 on the season and drops the Elite to 0-2. Houston flyhalf Sam Windsor was named the man of the match.
The home team snatched the momentum early and never relinquished it, winning the opening kickoff to go immediately onto attack. With the ball at the doorstep and all eyes on the charging Josua Vici, the large Fijian cutting back toward the ruck, scrumhalf Connor Murphy sneakily picked the ball and dove over for the score.
The Sabercats stayed on the offensive, and in the 10th minute were rewarded for the territorial supremacy when inside center Conor Mills broke the line and offloaded to fullback Osea Kolinisau for the second try of the game. Windsor converted both tries, putting Houston up 14-0.
The Elite saw a scoring chance go begging in the 19th minute, when Mills was pinged for diving over in a ruck deep in the Houston end. Flyhalf Timothee Guillimin lined up a shot at posts, but couldn’t connect. Two minutes later, Austin returned the favor, and Sam Windsor was successful on his attempt, pushing the Sabercats lead to 17-0.
The Elite went on a two-score run to round out the first half. On the first, wing Sione Fangaiuha was the first man outside the Houston defensive line. He used the unmatched numbers outside him to open up the cutback and glide in for the score.
The second was a connection between Guillimin and No. 8 Hanco Germishuys. The French flyhalf lofted up a cross kick from about 20 meters out, and the South African-born, Nebraska-raised loose forward gathered it and shrugged off the last Houston defender for the score. Neither tries were converted, and the Sabercats led 17-10 at halftime.
Houston opened the second half like the first, scoring quickly. This time it was two big forward carries setting up hooker Lindsey Stevens for a point-blank score. Captain Kyle Sumsion made the first big carry, then openside Chris Coyle bludgeoned ahead before Stevens slammed over.
Vici scored the next one in short order, but it was Kolinisau doing most of the work. He fielded a high kick from Guillimin, and while Germishuys was intentionally running into an offside Sabercat trying to draw a penalty, Kolinisau was slicing through the Austin defense. After crossing the whitewash, he rewarded Vici for hustling in support.
Vici played the role of the distributor on the next score, hauling in a Windsor cross kick and dishing the ball to the giant lock Justin Allen, who galloped the rest of the way for a try. Two of the three tries to start the half were converted, putting the Sabercats up 36-10 with half an hour to play.
The Elite brought the game back to within three scores with a try in the 57th minute. Ned Hudson made the initial line break, and Fangaiuha stretch over for the score. Guillimin notched the conversion and edged it closer himself with a try not two minutes later. He stepped hard inside his opposite and burst into the open field and across the line. He tapped over two more points, cutting the deficit to 12 at 36-24.
Houston answered back to end the run and make it a three-score game again. Windsor did the scoring, keeping his feet through three would-be tacklers, including reserve flanker Todd Clever. Windsor nailed the conversion, too – 43-24.
Former University of Hawaii and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Joey Iosefa scored on his first-ever touch for Houston’s next try. It was an attacking scrum on the right side, and the ball went straight from the pack to Iosefa, who charged at an unwilling Guillimin, rumbling past him and the swinging arm of Clever for the try.
The Elite weren’t done, though, as reserve wing Alex Faison-Donahoe crossed in the corner near the 70th minute. They’d get another at the death, after Guillimin kicked, gathered, kicked again and Vici was binned for slowing the ball down at the tackle. Knute O’Donnell picked and scored from short range.
Houston Sabercats 50
Tries: Murphy, Kolinisau, Stevens, Vici, Allen, Windsor, Iosefa,
Cons: Windsor (6)
Austin Elite 38
Tries: Germishuys, Fangaiuiha (2), Guillimin, Faison-Donahoe, O'Donnell
Cons: Guillimin (4)