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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Texas Cup

The word "Bayou" derives its origins from Choctaw (bayuk) and Louisiana French. If there's one travel date that is set in stone each year for Rugby PickEm, it's our trip to the Bayou to complete the pilgrimage to one of the great US-based rugby-specific stadiums. This year had to be the Texas Cup.

The Texas Cup in all her Glory. So close you can almost touch it ... 🏆

As the RP "Boots on the Ground" 2021 Tour continued in the nation's 4th largest city (population), Sabercat die hard fans Franky Ruggs and Holly Hoops could barely contain their excitement as the group waited for an Uber to Aveva. Frank lives and dies with the ups and downs of being a Houston sports fan, but he loves his teams dearly and one of those teams is his beloved Cats. 

Drop the bags, we're taking a picture

Hats off to TJ Onyett and the Sabercats front office for making the gameday experience truly memorable. Houston strategically planned this weekend and aligned a USA rugby identification & scouting camp early on in the AM, followed by a multitude of games leading into the Texas Cup to round out the night. Special thanks to Paul Mabry, who in his short interview with Rugby PickEm (if you're reading this, listen to the above audio) mentioned there were teams from Mexico, Kansas City, and just about anywhere in the state of Texas. I know I saw a good amount of Dallas based Regis Jesuit fans in the stands, supporting their head coach Mikey "Bistro" Brown who started at hooker for the Cats. Strategic planning like this is what make a game atmosphere really great. It's hard to just open up your doors and expect people to start pouring in ... you have to work at it, and plan, and follow up with people, and efficiently market your gameday experience ... and you can never stop, because there's always more tickets to be sold.

Aveva was host to a full day of rugby development. HS players packed the stands when the Texas Cup kicked off.

As far as the game went, the first 15 minutes of a 0-0 stalemate was some of the more exciting rugby I've seen. The term "on the edge of your seat" was in full effect, as Franky Ruggs was practically ripping his hair out calling for his beloved Cats to "hold the line!". He did take offense when he laid on eyes the Dallas Jackal mascot (must be trying to make an early splash before the actual team debuts?) .... to quote Frank "This is Houston, not Dallas buddy ...". Maybe the Jackal and Scratch were able to put their differences aside on this day and "get along" for the kids ;)

But Austin pulled away in the end, and the Cats just couldn't find the try line. There were fantastic phases of play by both sides, and LaRome White's 20 meter scamper would soon go viral thanks to whatever social media intern runs The Rugby Network's accounts (my guess is it's one of Gilly's people). 

The Cats can take solace in the fact that their U18 Rugby HTX team defeated the Austin Outlaws U18 team in the curtain raiser. Special thanks to Reggie Harrison for the short interview .... in his words "it was a good shift from the boys".

Tequila Marketing 101, Give it out for Free. 

Can't beat the Cat Den for environment. They were rocking all night and the bar was packed to the teeth. Also, an unlimited supply of free tequila (no matter how warm) is always welcome. As you can see by the picture above, they pulled out all of the stops on the marketing front. Skin tight cat suits, full costumed luchadores, and most importantly, great live music. A mariachi band wrapped up the night as Jodie from San Diego managed to sneak into the player food line and gorge on fajitas courtesy of the Cats.

It was a truly an experience you can't forget. Regardless of the final score, or how the Cats' first couple of seasons have played out in the league standings .... there's just no beating the Cat Den environment. This franchise will right the ship and before long the wins will be flowing like the Veneno tequila was Saturday night.

The Texas Cup stays in Austin until next year. Congrats to the Gilgronis as they look to continue to push for a spot in the Western Finals (currently chasing Utah and holding off San Diego).

Austin returns home for their final home game of the year when they host Toronto. Will we get a Jim Knox sighting? We certainly hope so.


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