Sunday, June 26, 2016

Preview: Ohio Face Surging San Francisco

By Derek Sagehorn

Fresh off unseating league-leaders Denver, the Ohio Aviators return to Fortress Obetz to defend their perfect record at home Sunday afternoon against the San Francisco Rush. The Rush are well aware of the difficulties of playing at Ohio, having suffered a 30 point loss their last month. They will enter the match buoyed by two wins; hoping to carry that momentum East.

The visitors bring Niko Lolohea back into loosehead this week for Codi Jones, who is relegated to the bench. Brendan Daly is out as Nick Grass returns from his six game suspension. Isaac Helu departs this week to be replaced Siupeli Sakalia. And Sam Finau, who departed early against San Diego, is healthy enough to start at open side flanker. Neil Barrett, of San Francisco Golden Gate, and Jacob Finau will cover both hooker and loose forward for San Francisco.

Take the jump to read more.

In the backs, coach Paul Keeler has given Devereaux Ferris the nod over Michael Reid this week. Rouse continues his partnership with Orene Ai’i, but Mils Muliania will be rested this week. In his stead, Junior Helu slots in at outside center. Last week’s back three is unchanged, but Pila Huihui appears again on the bench.

For Ohio, coach Paule Barford has selected Demecus Beach to start with Angus MacLellan playing with the Eagles. Pierce Dargan once again anchors the engine room. Sebastian Kalm, on the short-list for Pro player of the year, will play openside flanker as Riekert Hattingh wears the number eight shirt again.

Out back, American age-grade alum Zac Mizell takes over at flyhalf this week. Outside of him will be Roland Suniula and Dominick Waldouck. The latter has impressed in his first two starts with his support play and defense. Alex Elkins and Spike Davis, who seem to be in a try-scoring race, round out the wings.

San Francisco is a new-look team since the end of May. They are playing with patience in attack and working hard in defense. The fitness has improved dramatically, evinced by their work to hold off San Diego in the dying moments of last week’s contest. But storming Obetz will be a challenge, even moreso without Mils Muliaina, David Tameilau and Brendan Daly. A hallmark of Ohio’s game so far this year has been the ability of their forwards to interplay and pass out-of-contact with their backs. If Kalm and Fillipo Ferrarini start running down hill and release Elkins and Davis, it will be a long day for San Francisco.

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