Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pro Rugby Preview: Denver Hosts Ohio

It's only fitting that America's entry into professional rugby begins with teams having to overcome adverse conditions to play--in this case the big snow storm in Denver. After all, to get to this point rugby in America has had to overcome a lot of obstacles to even reach the stage of professionalization. Rugby has been around for over 100 years in this country, the Eagles have been around for 40 years, and the rest of the world went professional 20 years ago. It's about time the U.S. is finally able to step out and join the ranks of those countries with professional rugby.

PRO Rugby begins today with Denver hosting Ohio. As mentioned, a big snow storm in Colorado has dumped snow on to the Infinity Park pitch and it cancelled a bunch of flights. Luckily for Ohio they weren't one of them and now after a long 10 hour travel day are ready to show what they can do.

Both teams, although completely new, already enter the match with different perceptions. Having a lot of players that have played for the Eagles and with perennial club powerhouse Glendale, Denver have an aura of already being one of the favorites to win the competition. Nearly all of their players are from Colorado and have played together before, something that should be a huge advantage for a completely new team.

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Ohio come into the match with the perception of being underdogs. While rugby in Ohio is growing it still doesn't have the depth of places like Colorado and California. That means that Ohio have had to bring in the most players from out of their region. This lends itself to the idea that Ohio is a scrappy group of underdogs discounted by the rest of the league. We're not sure if that is true given the level of talent on the roster but if Ohio can bring a blue collar, underdog mentality with them it's going to make for a fun match and season.

No one is one hundred percent sure how things are going to play out at Infinity Park today. However, based on the reputations of players it's easy to see there are going to be a few key battles that will decide the match. One of the most intriguing battles is up front. Each team has very big front rows that will challenge each other. Former All Black Jamie Mackintosh leads the way for Ohio. He'll be joined by capped Eagle and up and coming prop Angus MacLellan. Those two players are big, big units and will be good in the scrum. Peter Malcolm is the hooker. He's transitioning to the position and so it's going to be a big test for him to see how he goes.

Malcolm is going to come up against one of the most experienced hookers in the U.S. in Zach Fenoglio. An injury limited his availability for the Eagles this past year but he's back and ready to go. Luke White and Ben Tarr are the props for Glendale.

Another battle to keep an eye on is in the halfbacks. Ohio have arguably the most underrated scrumhalf in the United States in Shaun Davies. The former BYU and Life player knows how to run a game well and is quick with the ball. He's going to connect with JP Eloff who was recently capped for the Eagles at the ARC. He had some decent moments in that tournament at fly-half but he also had some less than stellar moments. Still, gaining that experience will prove valuable. For Denver they will look to World Cup veteran Niku Kruger at scrumhalf and Ata Malifa at fly-half. Both are very solid players that tend to make few mistakes.

Overall, both teams seem to have different challenges and advantages. For Ohio, in addition to Malcolm they have several other players trying out new positions. Ahmad Harajly is going to be the fullback, Spike Davis will be a wing, and Matt Hughston will move to flanker. How those players do in those new positions could easily determine the match. However, if they are solid that Ohio has a excellent group of rugby players that should be able to take care of any mistakes Denver makes.

Denver have put out a roster that is extremely strong. Both the Denver Barbarians and the Glendale Raptors, who all but Will Magie in the backline have played for, are known as high scoring teams. Michael Al-Jibori and Martin Knoetze, the wings, have scored a bunch of tries in the PRP this season. Chad London has consistently been close to the top of the scoring charts in the PRP as well. In the back-row they have experience in Peter Dahl, Logan Collins, and Pedrie Wannenburg. The challenge for Denver is going to be making sure every player does the small things well.

In the end, whoever wins the match is going to be joined by the fans in the winners circle. The conditions may not be ideal but professional rugby is finally here, a reason for fans to rejoice.

The match will not be streamed and kickoff is at 2:00 p.m. Mountain Time so you should head out to the park to witness rugby history.


Forwards: Jamie Mackintosh, Peter Malcolm, Angus MacLellan, Pierce Dargan, Ryan McTiernan, Filippo Ferrarini, Matt Hughston, Sebastian Kalm

Backs: Shaun Davies, JP Eloff, Alex Ekins, Taylor Howden, Roland Suniula, Spike Davis, Ahmad Harajly

Bench: Demecus Beach, Cam Falcon, Anthony Parry, Dom Pezzutti, Chad Joseph, Chris Schade, Robbie Shaw, Mason Baum

Luke White, Zach Fenoglio, Ben Tarr, Brodie Orth, Christian Wiessing, Logan Collins, Peter Dahl, Pedrie Wannenburg (C)

Backs: Niku Kruger, Ata Malifa, Michael Al-Jiboori, Mike Garrity, Chad London, Martin Knoetze, Will Magie

Bench: Nick Wallace, Jake Turnbull, Soane Leger, Gannon Moore, Zac Pauga, Bobby Impson, Max De Achaval, Dustin Croy

1 comment:

  1. Any word if the match will be available for viewing afterwards?