SAN DIEGO, CA – PRO Rugby’s Week 10 battle between the San Diego Breakers and visiting San Francisco Rush was a crossroads match-up of rugby clubs trending in opposite directions. San Francisco, who started out the season 0-5, made the 503-mile trip to Torero Stadium beaming with confidence off the back of a huge victory over second-placed Ohio, giving the club its first win of the season. San Diego on the other hand, entered into their final home match of the season having lost two fixtures on the drop to Denver and Ohio, a combination of injuries and international player departures taking their toll on a side that had started the season off 4-2.
As has been the case with many matches in this inaugural PRO Rugby season, the match was dulled by a myriad of knock-on and penalties, but even still both sides were able to create moments of flashing pace and brilliance. In the end, San Francisco was able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them and turn possession into points, the same of which can’t be said for San Diego. San Diego had plenty of opportunities to put themselves well ahead of the visitors, but repeated trips to San Francisco’s 22 only garnered knock-ons and mistakes that stifled the final home match festivities. The Rush ended up winning 24-14.
It was a hugely important win for a San Francisco side that is rapidly becoming a formidable force in PRO Rugby. The arrival of New Zealand legends Mils Muliaina and Orene Ai’i have provided the Rush with experience and guidance that were lacking at the beginning of the season. Both Kiwis have given the Rush a much more balanced and successful attacking output from the one sided, forward dominant attack that left much to be desired in the first weeks of the season. Lock forward Jeremy Laenaerts had a stormer of a debut for San Francisco up and down the park on Saturday, scoring the Rush’s final try and effectively sealing the victory for the visitors. Fly half Voulney Rouse has finally found a way to balance San Francisco’s attack between the big man up front and the speed-savvy backs behind him. Both Daly and Rouse have become standouts for the team on the upward trend they’ve exhibited, both of whom have easily, at least in my mind, cemented their place in San Francisco’s starting XV.
After the match I spoke to New Zealand centurion and San Francisco Rush outside-center Mils Muliaina on his side’s performance, how the team has found winning form, and the road ahead:
The San Diego Breakers have fallen off the mark in recent weeks from what their fans have come to expect week in and week out. With the electric pace of backs like Mikey Te’o and Taku Ngwenya
and the power of forwards like Joe Taufete’e and Sione Tu’ihalamaka, San Diego was dominant through their first six games (even in certain aspects against Denver). That’s not to say they haven’t played well at times, but the cohesion they exhibited in the first weeks of the season has been decreased because of injuries and international player departures. Unfortunately, injuries to key players like Tom Bliss and Hubert Buydens and the departure of several players to the USA Eagles national side has taking its toll on the Breakers. Even then, San Diego was only two mistakes away from victory last Saturday. At one point in the second half, the Breakers had four consecutive attacks within 10 m of San Francisco’s try line, all of which were halted by either a knock-on, turnover, or penalty. Had San Diego scored on anyone of these attacking movement they would have gone ahead of San Francisco going into the final 15 minutes of the match and would’ve had a great deal of momentum. I know San Diego has the potential to be a top two side, they just need to re-find the rhythm they had to start season.
I spoke with San Diego’s Ryan Matyas after the match to get his perspective on the challenges facing San Diego and they are approaching a daunting 4-game away stretch to end the season:
On to Week 11!
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