Friday, April 22, 2016

Preview: Sacramento Visits San Diego

Photo: David Barpal

During the excitement of last weekend's opening San Diego couldn't do anything but sit down and watch as they were given a bye week. In some senses that has to be very frustrating for the team. After all, who doesn't want to be a part of an opening weekend? At the same time, San Diego have to feel they have a big of an advantage in that they were able to get a gauge of how things would play out and get a better understanding of Sacramento, this week's opponent.

On the flip side, even though Sacramento won't have any game film to watch of San Diego, they will have game film to watch of themselves. They can analyze what they did well against San Francisco and what they need to improve upon. They now have a benchmark to work off of, something San Diego doesn't. Sacramento also now have the first game jitters out of their system and can head down to San Diego squarely focused on the task at hand.

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Because San Diego hasn't played a match it's hard to do too much analyzing ahead of the match. However, with player history and with Sacramento playing last week there are some interesting things to look at.

The biggest thing we are keeping our eye on is the battle amongst the forwards. For a while it looked like San Diego might be thin in that department but a few late editions have them looking better. They will be led by very experienced prop Hubert Buydens who joins a relatively new name in Sam Taungakava. Mikey Sosene-Feagi will be the hooker and will bring his experience from New Zealand and the ARC. That front-row is going to go up against Val Lee-Lo, Ray Barkwill, and Ollie Klifi, all three of whom played well last week. Whoever, can keep the penalties to a minimum and help create a platform for attack best will likely win the match.

Elsewhere in the forwards San Diego is running out Chilean Nikola Bursic, Cecil Garber from Seattle, and Sione Tuihalamaka in the back-row. That could be a weak spot against a Sacramento team that will start Kyle Sumsion, John Quill, and Sione Latu. In the locks Robert Meeson and Siona Sina will be the pairing for Sacramento and will face former Army player David Dolinar and form Eagle Brian Doyle. Doyle can be the difference maker in this area.

Harry Bennett was a big contributor for Sacramento last week but he's going to go up against a stern test this week in the form of Tongan international Kurt Morath. Having come from playing in the ProD2 Morath is going to be counted on to provide leadership. He's also got a deadly boot that will take points when needed. In the scrumhalfs there will be a battle between Charlie Purdon for San Diego and Chris Saint for Sacramento. Tom Bliss on the bench for San Diego is a bit of a surprise.

Where San Diego has most of their strength is in the backs. they have an internationally capped final five players starting with Canada legend Phil Mackenzie. He'll pair in the centers with Ryan Matyas who got his first cap at the ARC. Tim Stanfill and Pono Haitsuka will be the wings with Mikey Te'o at fullback as expected. If San Diego can play to their backs early and often they should see a lot of success.

Sacramento's back line proved effective last week. Garrett Brewer showed some great heads up plays and Mirco Bergamasco was steady as always. This week they have also added Jojo Tikoisuva, a player that could be a major difference maker.

It's hard to predict who might win. On paper San Diego look to be a little deeper, especially now that they have added depth to their forwards but on paper doesn't always win matches. It could be that playing at home for the first time either distracts or focuses the team. If it has a focusing effect we think they win.

The match starts at 6:00 p.m. et/3:00 p.m. pt and can be seen on and One World Sports.

San Diego

Forwards: Hubert Buydens, Mikey Sosene-Feagai, Sam Taungakava, David Dolinar, Brian Doyle, Nikola Bursic, Cecil Garber, Sione Tuihalamaka

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

Bench: Tim Barford, Epi Kalemani, Kakalia Pule, Tai Tuisamoa, Chris Turori, Tom Bliss, Kalei Konrad, Ben Leatigaga


Forwards: Val Lee-Lo, Ray Barkwill, Ollie Kilifi, Robert Meeson, Siona Sina, Kyle Sumsion, John Quill, Sione Latu

Backs: Chris Saint, Harry Bennett, Ryan Thompson, Alipate Takiveikata, Mirco Bergamasco, Jojo Tikoisuva, Garrett Brewer

Bench: Kali Tavake, Toke Kefu, Richard Knight, Langilangi Haupeakui, Estaphan Tuimasanga, Nemia Qoro, Jope Motokana, Ryan Koewler

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