Saturday, April 16, 2016

Preview: San Francisco Visits Sacramento

By Derek Sagehorn

For the first West Coast game of Pro Rugby and the inaugural Bay Delta derby, both sides have selected strong sides. Coach Paul Keeler has selected a forward pack with a lot of beef. Maka Tameilau, younger brother to Eagle no. 8 David, lines up at loosehead prop with Tom Coolican and Patrick Latu rounding out the front row. San Francisco Golden Gate and Cal product Nick Grass is a relative rangey lock that will pair with anchor Siaosi Mahoni. The mountain Mahoni will likely be one of the largest players in the league, but is still only 19. San Francisco’s backrow shows Auckland-product Sam Finau slotting in at blindside. East Palo Alto journeyman Siupeli Sakalia takes over number eight for the injured David Tameilau. Alex Gletzer, from Cal and recently capped for the Eagles, will play openside. He can get around the pitch and disrupt phases if given the opportunity.

In the backs, Keeler has handed the halfback reins to Michael Reid and Volney Rouse. Reid is a young, but has high-level academy experience overseas. Rouse is the steady hand that has led San Francisco Golden Gate to several titles over the past five years. Rouse, a credible running threat himself, will seek to put centers Martini Talapusi and Canadian Nick Blevins into space. Keeler has opted for size in the back three, with the tall Jack O’Hara and converted center Mike Haley occupying the edge. Newly capped Eagle Jake Anderson will slot in at fullback.

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Coach Luke Gross has selected a capable pack with a lot of firepower in the backrow. The young Sione Latu will wear number 8 while Eagle John Quill will captain the team from openside. BYU stalwart Kyle Sumsion will offer an openside’s pace and workrate at blindside. Sione Sina and Robert Meeson slot in at lock for Sacramento. Former Seattle Saracens props Val Lee-Lo and Olive Killifi bookend the front row with Canadian talisman Ray Barkwill at hooker.

Sacramento’s Jope Motokana will marshal the pack, while Australian Harry Bennett plays flyhalf. The latter will have Sacramento Lions center Alipate Takiveikata and Italian Mirco Bergamesco outside of him. Rashad Harbor, Ryan Thompson are potent finishers, while Garrett Brewer is a counter-attacking threat from fullback.

With temperatures in California’s capital predicated for the mid-80s, expect an open 2nd half of play. While both teams will still be finding their rhythms and combinations, the contest between the backrows will be one to watch. Alec Gletzer and Kyle Sumsion battled for two years in the tackle area and ruck in national championship matches. John Quill has proved to be a potent jackal for the Eagles over the last two years. It will be up to San Francisco to keep him away from their ball and off his feet. Likewise, Sacramento will do well to keep Sam Finau buttoned up in the tight because the Kiwi is a destructive runner.


  1. Why isnt Mils Muliaina on the opening day roster?

    1. I believe he needs to finish out his contract with Zebre and he'll be here in May