Week 11 PRO Rugby Preview: Ohio Aviators vs. San Francisco Rush
SAN DIEGO, CA – While the league leading Denver Stampede play host to the very well-rested Sacramento Express, the Ohio Aviators and San Francisco Rush will square off in a battle of sides surging in form and looking to continue their respective winning streaks. After starting the season with five straight losses, San Francisco has won two matches on the bounce, beating Ohio by a score of 35-20 at their Boxer Stadium home before traveling down the Pacific Coast and besting a strong San Diego side, 24-19 last weekend. On the other side of the ball, Ohio, after their Week 7 loss away to San Francisco, went on to win two high profile matches in flying fashion, routing San Diego 55-31 in Obetz before traveling to Denver and handing the Stampede their first loss of the season with a 48-27 score line.
The Steel & Blues of Ohio have opted for two changes from the side that routed Denver last weekend; Zac Mizell jumps from fullback to fly-half in the absence of typical starter Taylor Howden, while Allan Hansen jumps into the starting 15 jersey for the first time in a few weeks to round out Ohio’s changes. It might be more of an experimental look for Head coach Paul Barford, and it will be a big opportunity for Zac Mizell to showcase his skill against San Francisco’s newly found defensive prowess. You can find a full squad announcement here.
For the San Francisco Rush, Head coach Paul Keeler has made five changes from the side that outplayed the Breakers in San Diego last weekend; Nick Grass makes his return from disciplinary suspension after an incident against Sacramento in week one, replacing Brendan Daly in the second row. Grass will line up alongside Jeremy Laenaerts, where both are set to start for the second time this season. Laenaerts made his PRO Rugby debut last week. Siupeli (Steve) Sakalia finds his way back into the starting lineup at flanker to replace the injured Isaac Helu. The last change in the forwards comes in the form of Niko Lolohea, replacing Codi Jones at loosehead after a good performance off the bench last week. In the backs, the notable absence of Mils Muliaina will put replacement Junior Helu in the spotlight. Lastly, Devereaux Ferris will take command of scrum-half from Michael Reid. You can find a full squad announcement here.
With 90° temperatures in considerable humidity in the forecast for tomorrow afternoon’s kick off, the fitness levels of both sides will surely come into play. The Aviators are favorites to win, at least in my book, especially considering the lack of injuries and absences they’ve had over the last three weeks. Momentum has been key to their success and the increasing cohesion of the entire Ohio team gives them the upper hand. San Francisco, on the other hand, must find a way to win even though injuries and absences have jumbled the lineup that has produced two fantastic wins in a row. Week 7’s match-up will be fresh in both sides’ minds and hopefully will make for a lively, largely error-free fixture in Obetz tomorrow.
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