Saturday, April 23, 2016

Preview: San Francisco & Denver Set To Clash

By Derek Sagehorn

San Francisco and Denver meet Sunday at Boxer Stadium as the home team looks for its first win of the Pro Rugby season. Although Denver will be happy to get away from the artic conditions that plagued last week's loss against Ohio, conditions are in San Francisco will not be ideal. High winds are predicted for Sunday. Thus, the running rugby on display from San Francisco last week in Sacramento may be inhibited.

San Francisco coach Paul Keeler has selected the core of last week's forward pack with a few changes. Jacob Finau slots in at hooker for Tom Coolican, who carried well last week. David Tamielau, back from injury, takes over at 8 man for San Francisco. The Eagle is a strong runner with an eye for the hard graft as well. Last week's number eight, Siupeli Sakalia, shifts into the second row to cover for the suspended Nick Grass.

In the backs, San Francisco heralds the start of Kiwi Orene Ai'i. The sevens star scored a try last week as a replacement but spent much of the second half on the back foot. Ai'i will aim to make the most of possession he gets Sunday. The centers remain the same, while last week's starting standoff Volney Rouse moves to right wing for Mike Haley.

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The men from Colorado will make game-winner Will Magie flyhalf this week and push Max de Archaval to fullback. The forwards stay largely the same with try-scorer Nick Wallace on the bench. The team was lucky that Ohio failed to ground three tries last week so will try to tighten their defense against San Francisco. San Francisco succeeded in Sacramento last week attacking the hinge of the fringe defense (ie the flyhalf or first midfielder) so Magie and Ata Malifa must be ready to tackle the big ball carriers. On offense Denver will look to expand their game, given the improved conditions from last week's contest.

San Francisco will be looking to put a complete game together. The faded in the last 20 minutes of the contest against Sacramento. Granted they were playing with 14 players at alternative moments, they lost that killer pace in the second stanza. David Tamielau should add some pace to the pack, but it will come down to San Francisco's tight five getting around the park. Isolated runners will be exposed by Peter Dahl and Logan Collins. If San Francisco, however, can consistently win their lineout ball they will create good opportunities to score tries.

The match up between centers is intriguing and a contrast in style. Denver have Malifa, who plays like a second distributor, and Eagle trigger-man Chad London. By contrast, Martini Talapusi and Nick Blevins are hard, abrasive runners who off-load well. Magie and Malifa will have to make their first up tackles and get a hand in to stop penetration in the midfield.

Based on their return to home turf and reinforcements in the pack, San Francisco will eke a win out by four.

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

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

Backs: Niku Kruger, Will Magie, Michael Al-Jiboori, Ata Malifa, Chad London, Dustin Croy, Max De Achaval

Bench: Nick Wallace, Jake Turnbull Soane Leger, Gannon Moore, Bobby Impson, Mose Timoteo, Mike Garrity, Timana Tahu

San Francisco
Forwards: Maka Tameilau, Jay Finau, Patrick Latu, Siupeli Sakalia, Siaosi Mahoni, Sam Finau, Alec Gletzer, David Tameilau

Devereaux Ferris, Orene Ai'i, Jack O'Hara, Martini Talapusi, Nick Blevins, Volney Rouse, Jake Anderson

Bench: Tom Coolican, Fancy Namulau'ulu, Codi Jones, Isaac Helu, Junior Helu, Michael Reid, Michael Haley, Charles Mateo

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