A 79th minute penalty goal from Sam Windsor gave the Houston SaberCats a 21-20 win over Austin Eliteon opening day of the new Major League Rugby season on Saturday. Heavy rain made conditions difficult at Dell Diamond but didn’t throw off Windsor’s boot, the flyhalf scoring all 21 points for the Cats with a perfect seven from seven kicks at goal.
It didn’t take long for Windsor to make his mark as he landed two penalties in the opening minutes. A back-and-forth battle at the scrum saw both teams earning penalties. Mickaël Romera couldn’t connect on his first shot but he would make good on a conversion after Chris Schade was driven over at a lineout.
Windsor would land two more kicks before the break with Romera responding with one of his own on the stroke of halftime. The score read 12-10 in Houston’s favor at the interval. A dangerous tackle landed Austin winger Peni Tagive in the bin early in the second half and soon after Windsor punished them further with his fifth successful kick.
Houston’s discipline also cost them as prop Jamie Dever saw yellow for a professional foul. With the man advantage Austin moved into range and Josh Larsen had the strength to get in under the SaberCats defense. Tim Guillimin took over the kicking with Romera off and was on target with the conversion.
As the clock wound down Windsor and Guillimin each landed long-range efforts. It was Houston’s man who came up trumps in the end, Austin conceding another penalty to gift the opportunity. The Elite couldn’t regather the restart and Connor Murphy hacked the ball into the stands for the win.
Houston will celebrate knowing they have a week off to work out the kinks before their game in San Diego on February 9. Austin have no such luxury but at least be able to stay at home as they host the Utah Warriors on Friday night.