Friday, January 6, 2017

Cal Cup: Week Four Preview

We've partnered with the Cal Cup to provide coverage of this year's tournament.

This week is make of break for most of the teams in the competition. Life West sit at the top of the standings but with three teams--SFGG, Belmont Shore, and OMBAC--breathing down their necks they don't have a guarantee of making it to the championship match unless they can close things out well. Similarly, for the three teams chasing them they need a win this week in order to stay in the hunt.

Life West at OMBAC (3:00 p.m., Little Q)

It's simple, if Life West win they set themselves up in a good spot to make the championship match. They have taken a full 15 points from all three matches so far and a win over OMBAC would bury the San Diego side. Life West have had solid play from a lot of players this season and with the likes of Rich Knight, Pila Iongi, and Martini Talapusi they have the experience to show up in a big game. However, it's the play of their youngsters like Naima Fualaau and Tavite Lopeti, that have propelled them to success. This is their last road trip of the season and playing at Little Q is tough but with momentum on their side it's hard to go against the Gladiators.

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OMBAC are still smarting from their loss earlier in the season. They had strong visions of making the final this year after just missing out in the PRP last year. However, with such a short season any mistake was going to be big. That said, they have the opportunity to atone for that this week if they can knock off Life West. A bonus point win while depriving Life West of one would put them equal on points. Depending on results in other matches that could mean they sit in a spot for the championship finals. Having Todd Clever is certainly helping as is their overall depth. If OMBAC can win they face a winnable match against Old Aztecs to close out the regular season.

SFGG vs. Belmont Shore (Long Beach State, 3:00 p.m.)

Both SFGG and Belmont Shore sit tied at 11 points in the standings. Both are in desperate need of a win if they want to make the championship match. Belmont Shore has been the surprise team this year picking up one big win after another. This week they have drafted in both Mike Te'o, a long time player with the club, and Garrett Brewer to bolster the team. Both were big players in PRO Rugby last year. If Belmont Shore can beat SFGG then they will face Olympic Club in week five. That's a good scenario for the team that could see them in the final. If they can't win then it's difficult to see them making the top two.

SFGG are smarting from their earlier loss to OMBAC. Had they won that match they would have found themselves in a great position after the winter break. Now they face Belmont Shore this week and Life West next week. They are going to need to play their best rugby to get it done. The team is still missing Volney Rouse and their defensive effort wasn't there against OMBAC. They will need someone to step up and fill the playmaking role that Rouse filled and they will have to keep the likes of Te'o off the board.

Olympic Club vs. Old Aztecs (1:30, Robb Field)

Although Olympic Club and the Old Aztecs sit at the bottom of the table they have played some excellent rugby this year. The Old Aztecs in particular have stepped up to a new level of competition and have been better every week. Pat Blair has become a key piece for the team and his leading by example is paying off. Olympic Club had more hopes heading into the year but injuries and an international call-up for Alec Gletzer have meant they have never been at the full strength they anticipated. That could change this week with the addition of Bubba Jones. Whoever wins this match avoids the Wooden Spoon. 

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