PHILADELPHIA, PA – This is the last weekend of the PRO Rugby season in which teams play each other for the first time. San Francisco has the bye this week, so they will have to wait until hosting Ohio in Week 7 before they get another chance for their first win. This weekend also features only one match being streamed. That’s a bummer. On the other hand, if the number of people who are angry about only having one PRO match to watch grows, that is overall, a good sign. One has to care in order to be angry.
Before looking at what to expect in the two matches, here is the league table:
Sacramento v Denver
The first half of Sacramento v Ohio last weekend was the best 40 minutes PRO Rugby has produced so far. It was combative and competitive, and the skill level was good. Unfortunately for Sacramento, they could not maintain that high level in the second half. Chris Saint will be the key figure for Sacramento, especially as Alipate Takiveikate gets his first start at 10.
Several potentially promising moves last weekend seemed to end with Joeli Tikisuva, and he’ll need to take the chances he’s given against Denver.
Denver is missing quite a few players who have been released to play with the Glendale Raptors in the PRP Grand Final. It is tough to fault loyalty from the players, and tough to criticize PRO Rugby for letting players try to win a championship with what was – until recently – their club. And this lineup Denver is traveling with shows some depth. Nick Wallace has done well for the minutes when he’s played hooker, and Christian Wiessing has been consistently good at lineouts. Back from the World Rugby U20 Trophy, Hanco Germishuys is set to get his first taste of PRO Rugby. He and Gannon Moore are the two biggest question marks of the starting 15. The backline looks close to first-choice, with Will Magie and Ata Malifa working together again at 10 and 12. With Brodie Orth and Michael Al-Jiboori on the bench, it looks like Sacramento will be dealing with another long second half.
Kick Off: 6pm EST, Sunday, May 15
Sacramento: 1) Val Lee-Lo 2) Ray Barkwill 3) Olive Kilifi 4) Robert Meeson 5) Sione Sina 6) Kyle Sumsion 7) John Quill 8) Langilangi Haupeakui 9) Chris Saint 10) Alipate Takiveikata 11) Joeli Tikoisuva 12) Mirco Bergamasco 13) Nemia Qoro 14) Shane Moore 15) Garrett Brewer 16) Matt Doubek 17) Toke Kefu 18) Kali Tavake 19) Sione Latu 20) Estephan Tuimasanga 21) Ronald Dwyer 22) Ryan Thompson 23) Ryan Koewler
Denver: 1) Benn Tarr 2) Nick Wallace 3) Chris Bauman 4) Logan Collins 5) Christian Wiessing 6) Gannon Moore 7) Hanco Germishuys 8) Pedrie Wannenburg 9) Niku Kruger 10) Will Magie 11) Timana Tahu 12) Ata Malifa 13) Chad London 14) Mike Garrity 15) Max de Achaval 16) Luke White 17) Jake Turnbull 18) Soane Leger 19) Brodie Orth 20) Brian Wanless 21) Justin Pauga 22) Michael Al-Jiboori 23) Bobby Impson
San Diego v Ohio
This match includes a father/son narrative, as Tim Barford is on the bench for San Diego and Paule Barford is coaching Ohio. It also includes sibling rivalry. Each team is starting a Suniula at inside center. For San Diego, Andrew Suniula makes his second start, while Roland Suniula has been playing well for Ohio. And, of course, there is a clash of team cultures. San Diego has made lots of social media posts featuring sunglasses, sunshine, shiny facilities, and dancing. Ohio posts, mostly, guys who seem either exhausted or doing things that will soon see them exhausted.
Playing both Mikey Sosene-Feagai and Joe Taufate’e along with Hubert Burdens means the front row will get through a lot of work in the loose. More important is that the lineout continues to improve. The quality of the San Diego backline is clear – not just in terms of reputation but recent form.
Ohio is missing Shaun Davies, who suffered a concussion last weekend. He was cleared medically but is being given an extra week to recover and told our Matt McCarthy he was fine. That decision is made easier by the option of Robbie Shaw. Shaw has not started yet but seen quite a bit of game time. Dylan Fawsitt gets his first start as Peter Malcolm is out with a shoulder injury. Roland Suniula’s center partner is a new face: Ryan Cochran. Ohio isn’t short of options in the mid-field, even with Taylor Howden’s return being at least another week away, so the coaching staff must be confident in Cochran.
Both side have beaten San Francisco and Sacramento, and both lost to Denver. Looking at the details of those wins, the edge heading into the match goes to Ohio. San Diego won’t get rattled and they won’t fade away, but Ohio’s looked sharper so far.
Kick off: 8pm EST, Sunday, May 15
Stream on the league website as well as Facebook Live.
San Diego: 1) Hubert Buydens 2) Mikey Sosene-Feagai 3) Joe Taufete’e 4) David Dolinar 5) Tai Tuisamoa 6) Chris Turori 7) Cecil Garber 8) Sione Tuihalamaka 9) Tom Bliss 10) Kurt Morath 11) Phil Mackenzie 12) Andrew Suniula 13) Ryan Matyas 14) Takudzwa Ngwenya 15) Mikey Te’o 16) Tim Barford 17) Kakalia Pule 18) Mason Pederson 19) Nikola Bursic 20) Ian Carpenter 21) Charlie Purdon 22) Kalei Konrad 23) Tim Stanfill
Ohio: 1) Jamie Mackintosh 2) Dylan Fawsitt 3) Angus MacLellan 4) Pierce Dargan 5) Kyle Baillie 6) Filippo Ferrarrini 7) Matt Hughston 8) Sebastian Kalm 9) Robbie Shaw 10) JP Eloff 11) Mason Baum 12) Roland Suniula 13) Ryan Cochran 14) Spike Davis 15) Ahmad Harajly 16) Chris Schade 17) Demecus Beach 18) Chad Joseph 19) Ryan McTiernan 20) Allan Hanson 11) Alex Elkins 22) Chris Kunkel
Can’t wait to sit back and watch – when we can.
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P.s… In case you missed it, here’s our Exclusive On-Camera Interview with former USA Rugby Men’s Eagles Head Coach, Mike Tolkin: