PHILADELPHIA – Maybe it was an invention of my own anxiety, but it seemed like everyone – both close to and involved with the matches and those following from distance – relaxed a little bit after the opening PRO Rugby matches last weekend. Now that it is real, we can all exhale. Even though we are now at the edge of Week 2 of PRO Rugby, there are still going to be quite a few firsts. Chief among these firsts is the first match for San Diego.
Now we have a sliver of information to use in looking ahead to the two matches this weekend, both of which will be broadcasted and streamed. What information do we have?
In Week 1, there were 43 scrums between the 2 matches. That’s a lot of scrums. At the 2015 World Cup, for reference, there were an average of 13 scrums per match. Some of that big number is due to the weather in Denver, but not all the handling errors were provoked by Mother Nature. In Week 1, 3 of the 4 teams won 100% of their scrums; Ohio only lost one scrum when the ball shot out past the 8-man’s feet and past the scrum half.
Things were much less efficient at lineouts. Sacramento had the best lineout, winning 7 of 9 throws. They also gave their opponent the fewest number of attacking scrums. Given that these are new teams, the number of knock-ons and lost lineouts are not a surprise. And it isn’t a surprise that the team that was best in limiting these particular errors is at the top of the table.
Here are the current league standings. According to Director of Rugby Steve Lewis, teams earn 4 points for a win, 1 point for scoring at least 4 tries, and 1 point for losing by fewer than 7 points.
San Diego v Sacramento
My first thought when looking at the lineup was that Tim Stanfill would get the first San Diego try, but the more I think, the more I envision Ryan Matyas getting across first after a good pass from Phil Mackenzie.
Looking at the lineups head-to-head, there aren’t glaring advantages for either side. For instance, Kurt Morath is a skilled, experienced player, but Harry Bennett did everything necessary to steer the Sacramento attack last week. At fullback, Mikey Te’o is an elusive runner who can open up defenses, but Garrett Brewer played last week like someone who has all the typical fullback skills. While Ray Barkwill has lots of experience and distributes well, Mikey Sosene-Feagai has lots of potential and athleticism and desire to be a strong ball-carrier.
With Tai Tuisamoa and the impact he is sure to make, San Diego has a strong bench.
This looks to be another close match. San Diego still has a few announced players unavailable, but the fact that it is Match #1 for them but Match #2 for Sacramento puts them at a bigger disadvantage.
Kick-off: 6pm EST, Saturday, April 23.
Location: Torero Stadium
San Diego: 1 Hubert Buydens 2 Mikey Sosene-Feagai 3 Sam Taungakava 4 David Dolinar 5 Brian Doyle 6 Nikola Bursic 7 Cecil Garber 8 Sione Tuihalamaka 9 Charlie Purdon 10 Kurt Morath 11 Tim Stanfill 12 Phil Mackenzie 13 Ryan Matyas 14 Pono Haitsuka 15 Mikey Te’o 16 Tim Barford 17 Epi Kalamani 18 Kakalia Pule 19 Tai Tuisamoa 20 Chris Turori 21 Tom Bliss 22 Kalei Konrad 23 Ben Leatigaga
Sacramento: 1 Val Lee-Lo 2 Ray Barkwill 3 Olive Kilifi 4 Robert Meeson 5 Sione Sina 6 Kyle Sumsion 7 John Quill 8 Sione Latu 9 Chris Saint 10 Harry Bennett 11 Ryan Thompson 12 Alipate Takiveikata 13 Mirco Bergamasco 14 Joeli Tikoisuva 15 Garrett Brewer 16 Kali Tavake 17 Toke Kefu 18 Richard Knight 19 Langilangi Haupeakui 20 Estaphan Tuimasanga 21 Nemia Qoro 22 Jope Motokana 23 Ryan Keowler
San Francisco v Denver
While San Francisco struggled in the final 20 minutes of their match last weekend, Denver shone in their last 20. Sacramento’s win over San Francisco was built on the 2 yellow cards San Francisco earned in the second half.
For Denver, Will Magie seemed to get more and more comfortable as the game went on last weekend, leading up to the game-winning penalty goal. Denver will be in good shape if he can start this weekend where he left off last weekend. Denver will also need to get Michael Al-Jiboori involved early. He was dangerous last weekend.
San Francisco ran from deep several times last weekend. With Magie, Ata Malifa, Dustin Croy, and Max de Achaval all in the lineup, Denver will look to put SF fullback Jake Anderson under pressure via probing territorial kicks.
San Francisco was able to create plenty of attacking opportunities last week, but far too many ended with errors. Perhaps to remedy that, Orene Ai’i starts at 10, with Volney Rouse moving to wing. Increasing their attacking firepower, David Tameilau is fit and starts at 8. He has the strength and quickness to create plenty of problems for the Denver forwards.
Hopefully, we will also get our first look at Timana Tahu for Denver.
Kick-off: 6pm EST, Saturday, April 24.
Location: Boxer Stadium
San Francisco: 1 Maka Tameilau 2 Jay Finau 3 Patrick Latu 4 Siupeli Sakalia 5 Siaosi Mahoni 6 Sam Finau 7 Alec Gletzer 8 David Tameilau 9 Devereaux Ferris 10 Orene Ai’i 11 Jack O’Hara 12 Martini Talapusi 13 Nick Blevins 14 Volney Rouse 15 Jake Anderson 16 Tom Coolican 17 Fancy Namulau’ili 18 Codi Jones 19 Isaac Helu 20 Junior Helu 21 Michael Reid 22 Michael Haley 23 Charles Mateo
Denver: 1 Luke White 2 Zach Fenoglio 3 Ben Tarr 4 Christian Wiessing 5 Casey Rock 6 Logan Collins 7 Peter Dahl 8 Pedrie Wannenburg 9 Niku Kruger 10 Will Magie 11 Michael Al-Jiboori 12 Ata Malifa 13 Chad London 14 Dustin Croy 15 Max de Achaval 16 Nick Wallace 17 Jake Turnbull 18 Soane Leger 19 Gannon Moore 20 Bobby Ipson 21 Mose Timoteo 22 Mike Garrity 23 Timana Tahu
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