MEET THE SABERCATS
New rugby team offers Houstonians a fun night out with family and friends
Many wondered if Houston would be able to support another professional team. We’ve got the big three teams, plus a men's and women’s soccer team, a minor league baseball team, and now a rugby club drawing the attention of Houston citizens. The Sabercats first game was a sellout – drawing over 5,000 fans in a blowout win over the Seattle Saracens. It was a fun night full of Rugby fans young and old, both new to the sport and veterans. There was a group of young English Rugby fans – living in the States who were excited to watch Houston’s first professional game. A father with his two young sons sat right on the pitch (just behind home plate if you’re thinking of Constellation Field like a baseball diamond) to watch their first match ever. An exciting time out with dad, they were eager to see how the game was played. A father who played rugby in high school watched with his parents, girlfriend, and young daughter explaining the game to the girl while she ate a box of Mike and Ikes on the grassy hill behind the Sabercat’s first half goal.
What draws people 17 miles from the city center to watch the sport? Billy, Tom, and Alex -- three guys I met on opening night -- all played rugby growing up and Tom has two caps with the English National Team. For them, it was exciting to watch the sport they grew up playing and missed here in the states live and in person right in the town they now call home. For Nick and his sons Oliver, 3 and Mason, 6 it was an opportunity to spend quality time together and see a new sport they had never thought of previously. Dane Butterfield enjoyed explaining the game to his girlfriend Taylor and daughter Zoe. His parents were also in attendance. Dane played football in the States before the family expatriated to England for his high school years. Football isn’t an option at the schools there, so Butterfield decided to join the Rugby team instead – its similarities to football the main draw. He played hooker – one of the front line positions -- until the family moved back to the States where he played for the inaugural Katy Barbarians club team – which is still in existence today as one of two rugby clubs in the West Houston/Katy area. Having the opportunity to enjoy a game with family while also passing on the love of the sport to his young daughter is exciting and the family plans to attend as many games at Constellation Field as they can. On opening night, they sat on the grassy hill but by game three they had moved to stands right on the 50-meter line – where the best action is.
Games two and three – both losses – had lower turn outs. More than 2,600 fans still came out for game two on January 13th, the freezing temperatures a deterrent to some, but not all as fans watched the Sabercats take on the Vancouver Ravens in a close loss. A crowd of 3,000 showed up for game three where the Sabercats again lost, this time to the Uruguayan National Team. With any new team, they’ve got some kinks to work out, but the atmosphere alone is enough to sustain the fan experience for a while longer. With football ending in just one week, that need we have for contact will be satisfied with the Sabercats.