On May 25, the Houston SaberCats celebrated “Pride in the Park” at Aveva Stadium in south Houston with a victory against the Austin Elite.
Despite its 3-10 season, Space City’s rugby team won the match handily, 36-15. In a postgame interview, SaberCats team captain Matt Trouville spoke on LGBTQ equality.
The SaberCats are one of Houston’s three professional sports teams that have an official Pride Night on their season schedule. The Houston Dynamo and the Houston Dash host their Pride events in June. Trouville, who is from Sydney, Australia, says that Pride is also a major event there.
“We have a huge gay community in Australia, and we’re a very accepting nation, just like in America,” Trouville says. “You’d hope that more people were more accepting, and that more people could live the life they want to live. We just want to celebrate that tonight.
“I don’t know if you noticed, but a lot of the boys were wearing rainbow shoelaces to send a message that we support [the LGBTQ community],” Trouville added. “I just think it’s something that I wish the whole nation—and the whole world, really—would be on board with more. So we were happy to celebrate it.”
May 25 was also Salute to Service Night at Aveva Stadium. During the halftime presentation, service members from various military branches were honored for their service. After the game, Trouville thanked veterans for their service.
“Myself and the guys—and everybody involved—gets to live the life that they do, and gets to do the things they want, because of those who sacrifice everything to protect this country,” he said. “I don’t think we can thank them enough in words for the things they do to give us the things we take for granted on a daily basis,” Trouville continued. “So we are so grateful for the men and women who serve in all facets of the military.”
Does Trouville have any message for those celebrating Pride throughout June? “Yeah. Just go out there and have as much fun as you can, because you deserve it as much as anyone. And hopefully, [somewhere] along the road, we’re going to get to more equality and more respect for people,” he said. “Sexuality is on a spectrum, so wherever you fit on that spectrum, be you—and enjoy it.”
The offense’s fireworks began early, with Houston’s Jamason Schultz scoring the first try of the game. Sam Windsor’s conversion kick was good, giving the team an early 7-0 lead. Within two minutes, Houston’s Thretton Palamo scored another try. Although the conversion kick was missed, Houston’s lead went up to 12. An offsides violation against the SaberCats led to a successful penalty kick by the Elite, making the score 12-3.
A wild series followed. One SaberCats player was off to the races, zooming toward the end zone—until his errant pass to a teammate. The pass got recovered by another SaberCat, who tried to set the ball down and then kick it while running. Austin seized on a Houston turnover, but the SaberCats took it right back. Then Alejandro Nieto scored a try; this time, Windsor nailed the conversion kick to make it 19-3. Four minutes later, Cecil Garber zoomed through the end zone for a fourth try. Though the conversion was no good, the SaberCats were ahead 24-3 at the half.
As the second half began, #47 for the Austin Elite scored. It was the Elite’s first try of the game. But then, out of nowhere, Houston’s Malacchi Esdale ran away from defenders, sprinting toward the end zone for a try. The SaberCats were now up 29-8. A lengthy standoff formed at the Houston end zone, with the SaberCats straining at the goal line. But just as the team seemed poised to score, the Elite intercepted the ball and scored. Their conversion was good.
As the clock ticked under two minutes, time was running out. For a while, it looked as if the score would remain 29-15. But then, with 1:25 left, SaberCat Thretton Palamo caught a short pass to score. Osea Kolinisau made the conversion kick to seal the 36-15 win.
Trouville said that the team’s skilled “offloading” (in which a player passes the ball to a teammate before being tackled) helped win the game. “So I think that was a big part of our success today, [and] moving the ball in the space that it needed to go,” he said. “That’s always a big part of it, and we were struggling to do that earlier in the year. So it just seems like things on the attack are starting to click, and we’re all starting to get on the same page. I just wish it didn’t take so long.”
Trouville added that the win could have positive implications for future games. “Obviously, we can’t get in the playoffs, but to end the season well was very important, of course, for our next year,” he said. “So we look at this as a huge positive, you know? Two wins in a row; now two home games. Hopefully we can go 4-0. Obviously, we’ll see how it ends up, but it’ll do wonders for next year.”