Saturday, May 28, 2016

Preview: Sacramento vs. San Diego In Critical Clash

We've reached another milestone in the PRO Rugby season. This won't be the first time teams have played against each other for the second time but it will be the first time that a team will go on the road to the same venue for the second time as Sacramento make the trip to San Diego and Torero Stadium. That likely won't be a major factor in today's match but it is something that could benefit Sacramento.

This is a critical juncture of the season for both teams. After winning their first match Sacramento have been on a slide losing four straight times. Their offense has in particular struggled during that time and they have scored a league low 102 points or 20.4 per match. In order to help spur on their offense they've made some changes with Mirco Bergamasco sliding into the fly-half position. He's been their most influential player so far and the hope with the move is that he'll be able to bring some calm and solid decision-making to the team.

Take the jump to read more.
Bergamasco's move could pay off but only if the rest of the team can clean up their game. Sacramento have been hurt repeatedly this year by handling errors. Even if it's unofficial they have to lead the league in knock-ons this year. If you look back at some of their matches, including their earlier match against San Diego, they could have had a different result had they simply been able to hold on to the ball. Their forwards have done well and Garrett Brewer has been good this year. It's a platform that should give them success if they simply focus on the small things.

For San Diego they are currently in third place but they have a game in hand over Ohio. Their win two weeks ago against Ohio was a big result and it's put them into a good place to challenge Denver if they can win key matches, like today's against Sacramento. If they slip up then it's going to open the door for Ohio to gain back some ground and for Denver to pull further away.

San Diego have made some changes heading into this week. Kurt Morath is going to get a break with Kalei Konrad starting. The hero from two weeks ago, Charlie Purdon, will come off the bench once again with Tom Bliss getting another start. In the forwards Jake Ilnicki will get his first action in PRO Rugby while the team sees the return of Brian Doyle. That has moved Tai Tuisamoa to flanker.

Overall, the changes look to only strengthen San Diego. The front-row of Hubert Buydens, Ilnicki, and Joe Taufete'e should be able to compete with Sacramento's strong front row. The rest of the forwards make a solid back. Then of course there is their backs group that is only internationals. San Diego can start and if Sacramento make mistakes with knock-ons San Diego are going to have a field day.

San Diego are expected to win but don't think it's going to be a runaway. Sacramento have played some solid rugby at times and with Bergamasco at fly-half they should be better offensively. Still, San Diego seem like far too much to not come away with a win.

The match starts at 9:30 p.m. et/6:30 p.m. pt and can be seen either on or One World Sports.

San Diego

Forwards: Hubert Buydens, Joe Taufete'e, Jake Ilnicki, Brian Doyle, David Dolinar, Chris Turori, Tai Tuisamoa, Cecil Garber

Backs: Tom Bliss, Kalei Konrad, Phil Mackenzie, Andrew Suniula, Tim Stanfill, Taku Ngwenya, Mikey Te'o

Bench: Mikey Sosene-Feagai, Mason Pederson, Kakalea Pule, Nikola Bursic, Sione Tuihalamaka, Charlie Purdon, Kurth Morath, Ben Leatigaga


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

Backs: Chris Saint, Mirco Bergamasco, Jojo Tikoisuva, Nemia Qoro, Sione Latu, Ryan Thompson, Garrett Brewer

Bench: Cam Falcon, Toke Kefu, Matt Jerabeck, Matt Doubek, Estephan Tuimasanga, Jope Motokana, Alipate Takiveikata, Ryan Keowler