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Saturday, May 7, 2016

San Francisco, San Diego Look For Rebound Wins

Photo: Colleen McCloskey
By Derek Sagehorn

San Francisco returns from defeat against Ohio to defend Boxer Stadium from visiting San Diego. San Francisco is looking for that elusive first win. Getting it from San Diego will be a tall order. The southerners looked game last week against Denver and even mounted a ferocious late comeback. San Diego faded in the last quarter, especially in the lineout. San Francisco should look to disrupt possession at the line of touch.

San Diego brings a squad north bolstered by returns from abroad and injury. Taku Ngwenya makes his Pro Rugby debut on the right wing. The speedster, fresh from a long season in French D2 with Biarritz, will look to exploit space around the edges. Phil Mackenzie slides from center to wing this week, while Long Beacher Mikey Te'o returns to his spot at fullback. Roland Suniula and Ryan Matyas combine in the centers. Tom Bliss gets his first nod and will partner with Kurt Morath.

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Up front, Chris Turori gets the nod at blindside ahead of Nikokla Bursic. David Dolinar and Tui Tuisamoa link up in the second row. Kakalea Pule starts at tighthead with Tim Barford getting the number two shirt. Mike Sosene-Feagi, starter last week, is off the lineup completely, with cousin Joe Taufete'e coming off the bench. Former USA U20 prop Mason Pederson also gets his first spot on the bench.

For San Francisco, the pack is largely unchanged from last week. In addition to Sacramento loan Rich Knight, Olympic Club and former Cal Alex Bowman lines up at lock. In the backs, Volney Rouse returns to the number 10 jumper. Orene Ai'i splits out to inside center. Rouse and Ai'i are both good distributors, with Ai'i being a better runner. Such a move will allow SF to have two standoffs in open play. The workhorse Nick Blevins returns from absence to reclaim the outside center slot. Pila Iongi displaces Jack O'Hara to the bench, with Jake Anderson taking the left wing. Martini Talapusi shifts back to fullback this week.

Talapusi shifting to fullback and Ai'i taking inside center signals a shift to wider play for San Francsico. But no matter how they play with ball in hand, it will all be for naught if they do not cover up their defensive pores. San Diego has both power and speed along with Kurt Morath to pull the strings. If San Francisco can deny that potent backline possession at the lineout and breakdown, they have a chance. In that respect, focus will be on the battle between Tameilau and San Diego's jumpers. Still a tall order, so San Diego by ten.

The match starts at 3:00 p.m. PT and won't be streamed so keep a tab on TIAR for updates.

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