Saturday, July 9, 2016

Preview: Ohio Faces Must-Win Against Sacramento

Photo: Colleen McCloskey
The Ohio Aviators have been in a must-win situation for several weeks now but as they head to Sacramento tonight it's doubly true. As we detailed yesterday this is the penultimate match of the season for the Aviators. If they want to give themselves a chance against Denver at Memorial Park at the end of the month they need to take away as many points as possible against the Express tonight.

That's easier said than done. Led by Langilangi Haupeakui Sacramento were outstanding against San Francisco last weekend. That followed up on what was a solid performance against Denver the week before. This is not the same Express team that struggled to five straight losses earlier in the season. Defensively they have turned up their effort and they have finally found their groove on offense thanks in no small part to the return of Harry Bennett.

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Ohio can still put themselves in a spot to beat Denver if they drop points against Sacramento but it will be tough. If they win with five bonus points tonight that will give them 42 points on the year. If Denver will their final three with bonus points then they'll have 46. If Ohio want to make the last match of the season matter they have to win tonight or else they will have to wait for someone else to beat Denver.

Both teams are returning what seems to be their strongest line-ups. Once again there will be a big battle in front row. Jamie Mackintosh, Dylan Fawsitt, and Demecus Beach are as good as they come in the competition while Estephan Tuimasanga, Cam Falcon, and Val Lee-Lo aren't bad themselves. However, each team is missing a couple of key players. Eric Fry is injured and Ollie Kilifi is on the bench for Sacramento while Angus MacLellan is out for Ohio. The other big battle in the forwards is in the back-row where Sacramento arguably has an edge.

As mentioned, the return of Bennett has been big for the Express. The offense finally was able to get going in a meaningful way last weekend thanks in part of the ability of Bennett to to make plays. Injuries did take a toll on Sacramento this week as Ryan Thompson was hurt last week and won't play this weekend. That means that Jojo Tikoisuva will need to be big.

Shaun Davies and Taylor Howden have been a great combination the last month or so and Ohio have easily been the top scorers in the competition this year. The entire back line of Alex Elkins, Dom Waldouck, Roland Suniula, Spike Davis, and Zac Mizell causes so many problems for the competition. If the Express backs miss on one tackle it could be lights out.

While both teams have been solid defensively you can probably expect some of that to fly out the window this week. Both offenses have been playing very well and it would not surprise to see this as the highest scoring match of the season.

In the end it's hard to not see Ohio picking up the win here. We doubt this will be like the team's earlier meeting in the season at Bonney Field where Ohio ran away with it. Instead, we think it's going to be close. If there is something that can hold Ohio back it's the travel but we think they overcome that and came away with the win.


Forwards: Estephan Tuimasanga, Cam Falcon, Val Lee-Lo, Robert Meeson, Matt Doubek, Kyle Sumsion, John Quill, Langilangi Haupeakui

Backs: Jope Motokana, Harry Bennett, Cody Jerabek, Mirco Bergamasco, Alipate Takiveikata, Jojo Tikoisuva, Alex Hodgkinson

Bench: Ryan Koewler, Ollie Kilifi, Kali Tavake, Sion Latu, Toki Kefu, Ronald Dwyer, Garrett Brewer, Shane Moore


Forwards: Jamie Mackintosh, Dylan Fawsitt, Demecus Beach, Kyle Baillie, Pierce Dargan, Chad Joseph, SebastianKalm, Riebert Hattingh

Backs: Shaun Davies, Taylor Howden, Alex Elkins, Dom Waldouck, Roland Suniula, Spike Davis, Zac Mizell

Bench: Peter Malcolm, Dominic Pezzutti, Angus MacLellan, Zach Stryffeler, Ahman Harajly, Robbie Shaw, Allan Hanson, Derrek Van Klein

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