Tuesday, March 3, 2015

PRP Notes: Timoteo, Leaders Emerging, Venues, & More


Another week as passed in the Pacific Rugby Premiership and the story lines of the season are becoming more and more clear. We thought we'd take a look at a few of those story lines through week five.

Leaders are separating themselves: After a few weeks in which Santa Monica and Belmont Shore saw themselves at the top of the table it's now SFGG, Glendale, and OMBAC that are tied at the top with 15 points each. That's what was expected at the start of the season. Glendale in particular has been strong as of late. They lost in week one after not playing all winter and then have rattled off three wins in a row. Last year they similarly suffered a loss early on before winning a bunch of games in a row. If all three teams can fight it out all the way until the end of the season that should make the competition exciting.

Still not convincing: Although SFGG, Glendale, and OMBAC are at the top of the table none of them have been terribly convincing or looking like they will steamroll through the league. That is especially true as other teams have improved themselves. That's a good thing. The PRP is marketable because it offers strong competition week in and week out from top to bottom.

Take the jump to read more.

Mose Timoteo is THE man: There were some questions about what role Timoteo would play with Glendale after moving to Colorado. After all, he is one of the oldest players not only in the PRP but playing top level rugby in the country. Yet, not only has he played a big role for Glendale but arguably he has been the MVP of the season so far. With the Eagles continually looking for a back-up to Mike Petri maybe Timoteo should be in the discussion? He is playing better than arguably any scrumhalf in the country.

Olympic Club is still struggling: 2014 was supposed to be the rebuilding year for Olympic Club but it looks like that is still continuing as they are the only team without a win. Olympic Club has a few solid players in Keegan Engelbrecht, Dustin Muhn, and Colin Hawley but they need a lot more than just those three to contribute. They have competed hard but are still a few step away from really competing.

Todd Clever is a good thing but his friend might be better: Clever has been one of the best players in the competition this season and has been a big reason why OMBAC has been able to win when Zach Pangelinan is away. That said, Yoshio Kimishima, who came over with Clever from the NTT Shining Arcs, has possibly been even better. He runs a smooth game and has been strong from the tee. It's also allowed Pangelinan to be effective in other areas.

Imports: The idea that the PRP is importing a bunch of players is probably a little exaggerated. There are several higher profile players but no team is stacking their roster with imports. That said, it is a little disappointing that some teams have brought in players at key positions that the Eagles need. It's not really their job to produce players for the U.S. but it's a solid marketable point for the league. You do have to give credit to some teams for bringing in players from around the country--like Seamus Kelly, Brian Doyle, Chris Baumann, and Patrick Latu.

Venues: Infinity Park, Treasure Island, and Little Q are just three of the iconic rugby venues in the country and they all belong in the PRP. However, not every team in the competition plays in the same sort of venue. Santa Monica and Belmont Shore are still playing at high school or junior high fields. The grass may be great but for a league that has ambitions, justifiable ambitions, every match has to be played in a good venue that can house fans and sell tickets.

Overall: In many ways this year's edition of the competition has been better than last year. There is increased parity, teams have brought in more players improving the level of play, and the league is drawing the attention of fans in the U.S. and around the world.


13 comments:

  1. The reason there is no one has solidified the backup scrumhalf role is because Tolkin won't give anyone else besides Petri any time. It's a Catch 22 that will only be rectified when either one or the other of them stops being involved with the national team.

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    1. Ding ding ding. The discussion shouldn't even be about who is the backup but rather the starter as the incumbent has been well below par for awhile now. But as you point out, it's almost as if Tolkin is intentionally sabotaging the challengers at this point. You'd hope that a guy who is getting match time for a top 4 side in the Premiership at 9 and has been a USA captain at the U20 level would get a legit chance at the starting job but based on the past treatment of other scrumhalves I wouldn't count on it.

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    2. I agree that Tolkin has put far too much faith in Petri. To Petri's credit he did have a pretty solid fall. We'll see if he pulls the same crap with L'Estrange at flyhalf again. If he doesn't give MacGinty a fair shot, it will be an absolute shame.

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  2. It's been a decade since Mo played his last Eagles match. While there is little doubt he would do well at SH, that bet is not Tolkin's gambit.

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  3. Mose may be playing great rugby, but any spare SH minutes need to go to young blood since those minutes are so rare. Those minutes need to be going to Tom Bliss, Madison Hughes, and the kid from Seattle whose name eludes me at the moment. Between Bliss and Hughes, those two should lock down the #9 jersey for the next 10 years. Now to just get Bliss in an Eagles jersey.

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    1. It should be noted that Bliss is very much on the Eagles radar but they haven't really had an opportunity to bring him in before this. After all, he was able to get more minutes for Wasps during the November window. If he was with the Eagles he might not have had the opportunity to break through.

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    2. Could they bring him in for the ARC?

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    3. Curtis, I understand Bliss's situation for this past year. It's the upcoming year and WC that I'm talking about getting him in an Eagles jersey. Hopefully he will be in contention for a roster spot at 9.

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    4. I've heard he is definitely in contention.

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  4. Curtis - it is understandable to a degree that it is helpful to allow someone like Tom Bliss to establish his niche with his professional club but we are now on the precipice of the WC. With all do respect to Coach Tolkin he has not established any legitimate competition at the 9 jersey and has used the 10 jersey almost as an after thought. The result has been sub par play in the 9 jersey as Petri has been anointed the sole holder of that jersey and the 10 was given to a player with a history of concussions - and nobody else was really developed. We are now pinning our hopes on an un-tested player while others that are performing well do not appear to be under consideration. What does Zack Pangelinan need to do to be considered. And in the front row - the Eagles biggest weakness of all - I see players such as John Ryan of Munster listed in your USA eligible write up every week and he is performing well for them. If he IS eligible and he is interested doesn't it make sense to bring in someone playing first class rugby on a regular basis. As it is Fry is injured and Lamisotele has also been dealing with injury and does not appear to be getting any playing time. Seems to me a player like Ryan would fit in perfectly for the Eagles if he is interested. So to summarize - in areas with very obvious needs it at least appears the the coach is not availing himself to every opportunity available. Which is why people get frustrated.

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    1. I think you make valid points. I think the counter-argument can be made that players like Shaun Davies, Robbie Shaw, Nate Augspurger, and Chris Saint have all been brought in over the last couple of years and given a fair shot. Pangelinan has also had his chance. They tried to develop Shalom Suniula for the role this last year but injuries kept forcing him to move to fly-half. So I don't really think it's fair to say that they haven't brought in players. There are five listed right here. Whether they have all been given enough time or whether what they have done has been enough are different questions.

      As for players overseas like Dave Ryan, I know for a fact that the Eagles coaching staff reaches out to players all the time. You have to remember that if a player like Ryan plays for the Eagles his overseas contract is gone. It's basically asking someone to give up their living. Ryan isn't playing so maybe it's a shot but Callum Black is starting every week for Ulster. He would definitely lose out on his living. If Black played for the Eagles he couldn't play for Ulster any more and then where would he play professional rugby? If the U.S. had a league and paid the same as Europe it might solve the problem.

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  5. Why does playing for the Eagles kill a players pro contract - not sure I understand that. If you could explain further that would be helpful - my understand was that for our domestic players to get european contracts they had to have at least one full cap as a starter. If a USA eligible player playing in Europe make them ineligible to continue to play professionally? There is a test window where players have to be released but otherwise they are under control of their professional clubs. So while I understand that a player does not want to lose his income I guess I do not understand why that is the case. If you could explain that it would be greatly appreciated.

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    1. Ireland is the most strict example but nearly every country in Europe has restrictions on how many non-Irish, English, Welsh, eligible players teams can field. In Ireland only one foreigner can occupy a position amongst the four teams each week. For example, if Callum Black were to play for the Eagles Ulster would have to sacrifice another foreign player somewhere else. They would also have to work with the other three provinces. Even though Black is having a solid year he's not so good that Ulster will sacrifice to keep him at all costs. Black can try to play in England, as he did in the past, but in England teams receive a payout of a certain amount at the end of the year if they field a certain percentage of English qualified players in their match-day squads. Some teams like Saracens don't seem to really care about that but enough other teams do.

      In reality the whole Eagles squad probably has what it takes to play overseas professionally at a certain level but nationality restrictions get in the way. That's also why you really only see the likes of Samu Manoa, Chris Wyles, Blaine Scully, and Eric Fry getting solid first time minutes.

      Another factor is the Kolpak Ruling. It's complicated but basically the gist of it is that players from Africa and the Pacific Islands have to be treated as EU workers in the EU. Because the U.S. is a wealthier country it doesn't apply. Also, since the U.S. isn't a member of the Commonwealth it's hard than say a Canadian or an Australian, to get a work permit. That is why U.S. players have to have at least one starting cap for the Eagles.

      Lastly, Americans or U.S.-eligible players are often signed as cover for when teams lose players to the international test windows in November and the Spring. If a club knew they were also going to miss the U.S. player during that same window they might not sign them.

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