Saturday, April 30, 2016

Preview: Denver vs. San Diego In Battle Of Unbeatens

The season is still early but already Sunday's match between San Diego and Denver has the makings of a classic. In their opening match last week San Diego looked very good over a solid Sacramento team while Denver won in dramatic fashion over Ohio in week one and then stormed over San Francisco last week. Both teams also love to attack which should make for an entertaining match. San Diego scored 37 points against Sacramento while Denver put up 35 on San Francisco. That said, both teams also pride themselves on their defense. Put it all together and it should be an electric match-up.

There are several head to heads to keep your eye on and it begins up front. Some were concerned before the season that San Diego would have problems in their forwards and while they were beaten by Sacramento in that department last week they weren't disastrous and even did some things well. Hubert Buydens was excellent and Mikey Sosene-Feagai hasn't been bad either. Epi Kalemani will be the other prop and he'll need to have a big performance. They are going to go up against a very solid front-row in Luke White, Zach Fenoglio, and Ben Tarr. Remember, this is the same group of players that absolutely demolished San Francisco in the scrum. If Denver can manhandle this area again they are going to have a great day earning penalties and setting up their attack.

Take the jump to read more.
The front-row is vital to the scrum but the other forwards for Denver have also done a lot of the hard work. This week they are once again going with Christian Wiessing and Casey Rock in the locks and Logan Collins, Peter Dahl, and Pedrie Wannenburg in the forwards. For San Diego they are going with David Dolinar and Nikola Bursic in the locks and Chris Turori, Cecil Garber, and Sione Tuihalamaka in the back-row. On paper the edge seems to lie with Denver in this category.

Where San Diego really has their strength is in their backs. They have an international line-up with Tim Stanfill and Pono Haitsuka on the wings, Phil Mackenzie and Ryan Matyas in the centers, and Mikey Te'o at fullback. We felt that all five of those players had outstanding outings against Sacramento. Matyas in particular created a lot of disruption. One thing that they did very well was capitalize on any mistake. If Denver aimlessly kicks the ball away or coughs it up like Sacramento did last week then San Diego is going to have the opportunity to run.

Denver have a strong back group themselves. Timana Tahu has played for the Wallabies and Ata Malifa is playing at a very high level at the moment. Throw in Chad London, Martin Knoetze, and Max De Achaval and you have a good group. They may not be as fast as San Diego's group but they should have more power.

The match could really be decided in the halfbacks, in particular the fly-halfs. Will Magie for Denver and Kurt Morath for San Diego are both strong kickers. Both Denver and San Diego have shown good game management in their first few matches taking the points available to them. That's easier to do when you have Morath and Magie. Morath in particular last week looked to be on.

With the season being so young and the sample sizes so small it's hard to see who has an edge in the match. The Denver forwards are probably better than San Diego's group at this point but the reverse is true in the backs. We think that Morath's kicking gives San Diego a bit of an edge as does playing at home. Add in the fact that Denver are missing Michael Al-Jiboori and that many of their players have played long PRP seasons then they could be tired. With all that in mind we'll give a slight edge to San Diego.

The match at Torero Stadium starts at 5:00 p.m. et/2:00 p.m. pt and can be seen on AOL and One World Sports.

San Diego

Forwards: Hubert Buydens, Mikey Sosene-Feagai, Epi Kalemani, David Dolinar, Nikola Bursic, Chris Turori, Cecil Garber, Sione Tuihalamaka

Backs: Charlie Purdon, Kurt Morath, Tim Stanfill, Phil Mackenzie, Ryan Matyas, Pono Haitsuka, Mikey Te'o

Bench: Tim Barford, Sam Taungakava, Kakalia Pule, Tai Tuisamoa, Arnold Meredith, Tom Bliss, Kalei Konrad, Ben Leatigaga


Forwards: Luke White, Zach Fenoglio, Ben Tarr, Christian Wiessing, Casey Rock, Logan Collins, Peter Dahl, Pedrie Wannenburg

Backs: Niku Kruger, Will Magie, Timana Tahu, Ata Malifa, Chad London, Martin Knoetze, Max De Achaval

Bench: Nick Wallace, Jake Turnbull, Bobby Impson, Brian Wanless, Chris Baumann, Mose Timoteo, Mike Garrity, Gannon Moore