PHILADELPHIA, PA – Ohio was ready for their Week 3 home-opener – they were ready in terms of getting the pitch set and a crowd out, and they were ready to play some good rugby. Hosting San Francisco, the match was dominated by good support running by Ohio and San Francisco handling and set-piece errors. The match ended 51-17. That scoreline is a fair reflection of how the afternoon went.
Ohio started PRO Rugby in Obetz with a sharp first half. The first try was scored by Spike Davis who powered over to finish off a move that included strong runs by Ahmad Harajly, Sebastian Kalm, and Matt Hughston.
Ohio was able to keep the ball in the San Francisco half of the field for long periods of the first half, thanks in part to a few good territorial kicks by JP Eloff and Shaun Davies. In response to that territorial deficit, San Francisco tried to run the ball from their try line, and the tactic looked like it worked when they won a penalty. But, they lost possession when the lineout wasn’t straight. The next time Ohio was threatening to score a try, Volney Rouse was able to rip the ball from Kalm. Relief was, again, short-lived. A San Francisco knock on gave Ohio the ball inside 30 meters again. Angus MacLellan offloaded to Pierce Dargan who scored the try. After twelve minutes, Ohio was up 14-0.
San Francisco made some good breaks, but they weren’t able to maintain possession for any significant stretches. They finally had some possession and territory which resulted in a penalty inside the Ohio 22. Oddly, San Francisco opted to scrum. (Odd because they struggled so much last week. The data I’ve collected suggests that if a team’s scrum is good, it is a good decision.) They won the ball cleanly from the scrum, but turned it over on the first phase. Kalm kicked the ball down field. Harajly chased and recovered possession. He was able to pass to Zac Mizell who passed to Kalm who scored the try.
After 25 minutes, San Francisco scored through a Rouse penalty goal to make the score 19-3. Davies soon got the chance to kick a penalty of his own: 22-3.
Ohio was able to again keep play in the San Francisco half and eventually Kalm scored again, taking a quick penalty from a scrum.
At the end of the half, San Francisco had a long run to break out of their half. Roland Suniula was yellow carded for a high tackle (or slowing the ball down – not clear to me) at the 22. San Francisco chose to run the penalty. This time, the risky decision was rewarded and Jacob Finau – who was on for the injured Tom Coolican – scored a try.
It was a nightmare start to the second half for San Francisco. Niko Lolohea was yellow carded early on. Moments later, Ohio had a lineout that wasn’t straight. San Francisco opted for the lineout, but Ohio stole it. Davies got within 5 meters of the try line before the ball was knocked on. Ohio stole the San Francisco scrum and Filippo Ferrarini went over for the try. Like last week, San Francisco could not take advantage of their opposition’s mistakes, while their own mistakes were costly.
When San Francisco did getting into attacking positions, they struggled to execute. When they won penalties, they had no choice but to run it. They were too far behind to kick penalty goals and they couldn’t trust their lineout or scrum.
There were several good runs by Pila Longi and San Francisco did look dangerous for fleeting moments. Those moments were short lived. Ohio next scored from a scrum about 27 meters out. It was the second try for Davis – this one much easier than his first – and was easily work by Ohio on the first phase.
With just over half an hour to play, Ohio was up 37-10.
The match entered a bit of a lull. Eventually, San Francisco ended up back inside the Ohio 22, and they stayed there long enough to score a try. From a 5 meter scrum, Orene Ai’i scored a second phase try, which was converted by Rouse, to make it 37-17.
The last 5 minutes of the match were enough for Eloff to score twice. The final try was fitting in that it came from a stolen scrum, Kalm had a long run from the base of the scrum, and then Eloff wove in, out, and around defenders to finish the match.
I wrote earlier that Ohio would struggle because of their lack of size. Kalm, Hughston, and Ferrarini and the other forwards certainly did not struggle today. Ohio seems to have a solid back row with a smart 9/10 pairing and a few options in the centers. They should continue to improve. Next up for Ohio: a trip out to Sacramento.
For San Francisco, the question is how they will start to realize the potential latent in their squad. That won’t be easy next week when they host San Diego.
Ohio: 1) Angus MacLellan 2) Peter Malcolm 3) Jamie Mackintosh 4) Pierce Dargan 5) Kyle Baillie 6) Filippo Ferrarini 7) Matt Hughston 8) Sabastian Kalm 9) Shaun Davies 10) JP Eloff 11) Mason Baum 12) Roland Suniula 13) Ahmad Harajly 14) Spike Davis 15) Zac Mizell 16) Demecus Beach 17) Cameron Falcon 18) Anthony Parry 19) Robbie Shaw 20) Chris Kunkel 21) Alan Hanson 22) Dominic Pezzuti 23) Zack Stryffeler
San Francisco: 1) Niko Lolohea 2) Tom Coolican 3) Patrick Latu 4) Siaosi Mahoni 5) Richard Knight 6) Siupeli Sakalia 7) Sam Finau 8) David Tameilau 9) Michael Reid 10) Orene Ai’i 11) Jack O’Hara 12) Martini Talapusi 13) Vloney Rouse 14) Pila Longi 15) Jake Anderson 16) Jacob Finau 17) Fancy Namulau’ili 18) Make Tameilau 19) Cody Jones 20) Charles Mateo 21) Naibuka Tawake 22) Junior Helu 23) Isaac Helu