Friday, December 2, 2016

Cal Cup Week One Preview

We've partnered with the Cal Cup this year and as part of that partnership we're re-posting the weekly previews they are putting up on their site. The original can be seen here

The inaugural California Cup starts tomorrow with not only the top six teams from the state but some of the top teams in the country squaring off to be crowned champion. It begins with a triple-header at Treasure Island in San Francisco beginning at 11:15 a.m. Pacific Time.

Life West vs. Belmont Shore, 11:15 a.m.

The first match honors go to Life West and Belmont Shore. For the Life West Gladiators it is their first time stepping up to this level. It's important that the club itself was only found a few years back and they have slowly risen through the ranks taking home titles along the way. Now they find themselves in one of the top competitions in the country. The Gladiators supplied a lot of players to the San Francisco Rush in PRO Rugby last year and more of those players aren't back due to PRO Rugby rules but the team is still loaded with local talent. Siupeli Sakalia and Rich Knight, both players with PRO Rugby experience will help the team in the forwards while the backs are as strong as they come.

Belmont Shore are no strangers to elite competition having played in nearly every top club competition the U.S. has ever had. In every competition they've been in they have been extremely competitive. Led by Ray Egan, who recently led the U.S.A. Selects on their tour of South America, the team will have the services of Junior All-American standout Mason Pederson and long-time club stalwarts like Kimo Muse, Andy Jackson, Cameron Reed, and Sam Lilly. Added into the mix this year is Hilton Mexted who is touted for big things. In the Pacific Rugby Premiership Belmont Shore traditionally got off to hot starts and if they can do that again this year they could find themselves in a good position on finals day.

Take the jump to read more.

Olympic Club vs. OMBAC, 1:15 p.m. 

Both Olympic Club and OMBAC enter the match with something to prove. OMBAC were the closest team to breaking the SFGG-Glendale Raptors duopoly in the PRP last year only to see it slip through at the last minute. The team was so close that all it took was one play against Glendale and they would have been in. Coming so close and missing out is definitely on the minds of the team this year as they enter the Cal Cup. Veterans like Brian Doyle, Tai Tuisamoa (who will captain the team), Ben Batger, Zach Pangelinan, and Kalei Konrad will lead the team. Many of the players on the roster have PRO Rugby experience playing with the San Diego Breakers. The team has also added some experienced Australian players in Josh Vainikolo and John Grant. Expect OMBAC to play a wide open, attractive style.

Olympic Club are coming off their best season in the PRP to date. If it weren't for injuries, PRO Rugby call-ups and national team call-ups the team could have had their first winning season. Helping the team improve last year was the play of Jake Anderson who is back to take over the fly-half role. The team will soon have back Alec Gletzer but he's away with the Eagles 7s. Captain Tanner Mohr, John Gallo, and Josh Tucker have all been strong. However, the team is missing Keegan Englebrecht. O-Club's backs can play with the best of them the question for the side is if their forwards can give them a chance to win.

SFGG vs. San Diego Old Aztecs, 3:00 p.m.

No bones about it, as previous elite championship winners and a finalist in the PRP every year San Francisco Golden Gate enter the Cap Cup as title favorites. That may not be fair as they have had some turnover in their team but with Volney Rouse, a leading scorer in the PRP, Pila Huihui, Jack Halalilo, Brendan Daly, and Neil Barrett all on the side they are going to be extremely tough to beat. SFGG doesn't make a lot of mistakes and if you make them they will punish you. Additionally, playing at home is only going to help the side.

Old Aztecs have been DI stalwarts for years and one of the best teams in Southern California the last few years. That said, this is going to be a step up for the side. One player they will look to help out is Pat Blair. The capped Eagle has joined the club while living in San Diego and will give the side a veteran presence. Of all the teams in the competition the Old Aztecs are arguably the biggest wildcard. Like all of the other teams they have the talent it's just a matter of making it come together. 

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