Houston SaberCats v James Bay

January 28 2018


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Houston SaberCats 42 - James Bay 13: Game Summary and Insights from JBAA President John de Goede


Houston evened up their preseason record to 2-2 with wins over Seattle and James Bay and losses to UBCOB Ravens and Uruguay. Houston only lost to Uruguay by 8 (32-24), Canada lost by 9 (38-29), figure that one out, then factor in UBCOB Ravens defeated Houston by 3 (26-23). If Canada had put out the UBCOB Ravens team (or UBC) would they have lost by only 5 - that's a little bit of tongue in cheek humour and may be too soon but the relative playing strengths of the teams is not that different.

Houston won this won by +29, based on the JBAA roster and where they sit in the BC Premier standings it's a fair reflection.

As for the match, Houston scored twice early on, once from the scrum half Murphy and another from #15 Pengelinan, they added a drop goal and were leading 13-0. At 30 minutes James Bay got on the board 13-5. They added another in the first half through the backline and it was 13-10, no conversions yet. Houston's big Fijian winger Vici bulldozed over and it was 20-10 at the half. We had said before the match the back three for Houston would dominate and they scored two of their tries already. Vici would end up as man of the match for Houston.

In the second half the teams trade penalties, 23-13. The Bays got a yellow card, Houston brought in the subs and it was all Houston from there. At 60 minutes they score another one from the back three as Vici goes over, 30-13. A driving maul at 67 minutes 37-13, finally at 80 minutes winger Kolinisau, the Fijian Olympic 7s captain goes over, 43-13. Four of the six tries from the back three.

James Bay enjoyed the experience, except for the fact we hear their plane just got grounded for mechanical problems and they'll miss their Seattle connection. It will be a long ride home.

We talked to John de Goede the JBAA president who accompanied the team, these were his thoughts on the match, "The bright side for us was our scrummaging for the first 60 minutes - we were unlucky not to draw a penalty try in the first half. 20-10 half time score seemed fair. We struggled with the lineout, they had four players over 6'5" jumping for them. Despite being over matched physically in the backs, our players tackled well but by 60 minutes cracks appeared. Peter Rushton [coach] substituted so that 8 Reserves got to play. 2,050 fans came out to an oddly pleasing baseball park, constellation field. If all teams are able to operate at the level of professionalism as Houston, I think the league has a good chance."

That's it for BC Premier teams travelling to Houston for the preseason, a 1-2 record. The Seattle SeaWolves will come to the Island, Sunday Feb 11th, to play an Island Select team in an exhibition match. The game is tentatively scheduled for 6pm at Westhills Stadium. It's a holiday weekend so hopefully fans and family can set aside the time for a look at the new MLR league.




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Houston SaberCats v James Bay Preview: Kickoff 7pm Saturday in Houston


This preview will focus on the James Bay roster heading to Houston. The Houston starting XV isn't known at the time of writing but should be consistent based on previous weeks versus Seattle, Ravens and Uruguay. The SaberCats defeated Seattle handily 50-7, lost a narrow one to the UBCOB Ravens and lost by 8 to Uruguay.

If we compare the team James Bay sent to Seattle with the team they're sending to Houston and compare scores we can come up with a ball park estimate on the result. Houston defeated Seattle Saracens 50-7, James Bay defeated Seattle Saracens 25-10 last week, that's already a +28 for Houston. Of course rugby results and predictions aren't that simple but it gives a rough idea of the relative team strengths.

How does the James Bay roster heading to Houston compare to the one that visited Seattle last weekend?

Front Row
1 Blake van Heyningen Prop
2 Steven Ng Hooker
3 Noah Barker Prop

These guys should hold their own Barker is a veteran player, not always tighthead but fills in adequately there. This is the same front row that faced Seattle. A stronger configuration is when Barker moves to Hooker and Cole Keith plays tighthead but Keith is with Canada this weekend.

Second Row
4 Shea Wakefield Lock
5 Jacobus de Goede Lock

Shea Wakefield is a legit second row, played for UVic and for BC but hasn't had a shot at the Canada side. He's also played 7s so has some pace. He'll hold his own. Jake de Goede is a utility player, he'll show up where needed often playing loose forward. He often plays in the Div 1 side not the Premier side, last week Kieran McAuley took the other second row spot and normally it's Jim de Goede or Graham Harriman that own that spot. None of those players are making the trip.

Back Row
6 Mohamed Abdelmonem Flanker
7 Jakob Bulter Flanker
8 Paul Ciulini 8 man

Travis Larsen #8 is the name missing here, brother to Josh Larsen the Canada lock, he played last week against Seattle but can't make the trip this week due to injury. He's a rep level player who will be missed. His replacement isn't too bad however, former Canada U20 player Paul Ciulini who has gone off the radar since repping Canada at U20 in 2015 [ed. correction as pointed out in comments, 6 caps for Canada in 2016, none in 2017]. Interesting to see how he performs against Houston. The flankers are the same as the Seattle match.

Halfbacks
9 Mitchell Sora Scrum Half
10 Mitch Richardson Fly Half

Brock Gallagher is missing at #9, he was there for the Seattle match, he's a young player and one to watch, improving rapidly. Work commitments I believe the reason for his absence. His replacement Mitch Sora played wing against Seattle but has stepped into the scrum half position before. #10 is Mitch Richardson, against Seattle it was Elliot Johnson. Canada player Sean White owned that position but has retired from playing, he suffered a horrific blow to the head against Seattle in November that likely made the decision for him. Elliott Mitrou has taken over that spot but he is unavailable for the match as well. Mitch Richardson is a talented player, former Canada U20 player but he normally doesn't play fly half. He made the University All Star team this year at #13, so if the team takes the field in this configuration it will be a steep learning curve.

Centres
12 Guillaume Caillaux Centre
13 Michael Niewenhuysen Centre

Niewenhuysen is a Canada A level player, a big unit who fits a power, straight ahead style of play, he'll be a handful with ball in hand. Caillaux is from France, he played wing against Seattle and can be moved around the backline.

Back Three
11 Aaron Evison Winger
14 Nathan Waldmann Winger
15 Blake Mahovic Full Back

The back three may be moved around by game time but this is one area that Houston should have the advantage with Vici and Pangalinan. Blake Mahovic is a bit of an unknown, borrowed from Squamish for the tour, he's apparently played Rugby League in the UK at a high level.

The Bench
16 Andrew Macpherson Prop
17 Jason Lines Prop
18 Jack Mealey Hooker
19 Tyler Rockwell Flanker
20 Nathan Tough Centre
21 Liam Murray Prop
22 Thomas Burton Back

Another area Houston should see an edge if they need it later in the match. A combination of youth and 2nd team players. Jason Lines played Canada U20 last year. Thomas Burton was playing Canada East U17 in 2015 so another U20 player. It will be a learning experience for the players coming off the bench.

Synopsis

Houston after 3 tough matches will want to impress at home after two losses. The team the Bays are sending is missing 5 starters from the team that defeated Seattle last week. How close they keep the game depends a lot on the 5 replacements coming in, the performance of Ciulini at #8 and Mahovic at fullback will be key, also young Richardson if he is given the #10 starting role. Expect the Houston back three to be influential and get on the board more than once. If the game is close going into the last 20, the depth of the benches may be an important factor.

Sidenotes

The starting halfbacks for Canada vs Uruguay World Cup qualifier on Saturday are two former James Bay players, Phil Mack now with Seattle Seawolves and Connor Braid now a Canada 7s player. The back three for Canada, all current pros in Europe, DTH, Jeff Hassler and Taylor Paris also played for the Bays before their pro career.

James Bay Roster (subject to change prior to kickoff)

1 Blake van Heyningen Prop
2 Steven Ng Hooker
3 Noah Barker Prop
4 Shea Wakefield Lock
5 Jacobus de Goede Lock
6 Mohamed Abdelmonem Flanker
7 Jakob Butler Flanker
8 Paul Ciulini 8 man
9 Mitchell Sora Scrum Half
10 Mitch Richardson Fly Half
11 Aaron Evison Winger
12 Guillaume Caillaux Centre
13 Michael Niewenhuysen Centre
14 Nathan Waldmann Winger
15 Blake Mahovic Full Back
16 Andrew Macpherson Prop
17 Jason Lines Prop
18 Jack Mealey Hooker
19 Tyler Rockwell Flanker
20 Nathan Tough Centre
21 Liam Murray Prop
22 Thomas Burton Back

SaberCats vs Uruguay



SaberCats vs UBCOB Ravens



SaberCats vs Seattle Saracens


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