The Toronto Arrows survived a stubborn Houston defence to defeat the SaberCats 19-10 in Major League Rugby play Saturday night.
The Arrows dominated the first half but only led 12-3 at the half thanks to some hard-nosed Houston defending.
Trailing 19-3, the SaberCats made it interesting in the 75th minute when Cecil Garber charged down a Pat Parfrey kick deep in the Toronto end and got to the ball first for a converted try that cut the lead to 19-10.
Manuel Montero, Tomy de La Vega and Manuel Diana scored tries for the Arrows. Will Kelly added two conversions.
Sam Windsor kicked a penalty and a conversion for the SaberCats before some 1,800 spectators in the 4,000-capacity at Aveva Stadium.
The game marked the fourth league meeting between the two teams. Toronto had won the first three contests.
Both teams were coming off losses. Toronto (4-5-0) lost 33-29 on a last-second try at Rugby ATL last weekend. Houston (2-6-0) was coming off a 28-26 defeat at NOLA Gold.
The Arrows’ matchday 23 included 15 internationals: 10 from Canada, three from Argentina and two from Uruguay. Toronto rested New Zealand fly half Tayler Adams, who came into the weekend ranked second in league scoring with 77 points, with 22-year-old Canadian Kelly starting at No. 10.
Injuries robbed the Toronto backline of Argentina’s Joaquin Tuculet and Uruguay’s Leandro Leivas.
Canadian International Robert Povey started at fly half for Houston. Canadian props Nik Hildebrand and Liam Murray were among the SaberCat replacements.
Povey, English-born but eligible for Canada through his mother who is from Montreal, has four caps for Canada.
Houston bent but didn’t break in a first half dominated by the Arrows.
Toronto centre Spencer Jones couldn’t hang on to the ball near the Houston goal-line in the fourth minute. The Arrows then knocked on at a lineout in the SaberCats end.
Despite Toronto’s domination, it did not convert its advantage in field position until the 21st minute when Montero, a six-foot-four 240-pound Argentine winger, crashed over for his seventh try of the season after a Toronto scrum resulting from a penalty near the Houston goal-line.
Houston scrum half Nick Boyer was sin-binned with five minutes remaining in the first half. Toronto took advantage soon after, with de la Vega dragging several defenders with him as he bulled his way over from close-range for a converted try and a 12-0 Toronto lead.
Windsor kicked a penalty on the stroke of halftime to narrow the Arrows’ edge to 12-3 at the half.
Kelly missed an Arrows penalty attempt early in the second.
Houston came close in the 57th but winger Gaston Mieres got to a Houston grubber kick that ended up behind the Arrows try-line before Boyer got a hand to it.
A Houston penalty allowed the Arrows to kick for touch near the SaberCats’ try-line and Diana powered his way went over after the ensuing lineout for a converted try that upped the Toronto lead to 19-3.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2021