The 2015 Pacific Rugby Premiership season officially gets underway this weekend with a full slate of matches.
Olympic Club vs. SFGG (Saturday, 3:00 p.m. pt, Ray Sheeran Field)
Olympic Club vs. SFGG has always been one of the most intense rivalries in all of American rugby and it was only amplified last year in the PRP in front of strong crowds. Champions SFGG return their core group of players with standouts Brendan Daly, Opeti Okusi, Volney Rouse, Mile Pulu, and Tai Enosa once again getting starts. Joining the team this season is scrumhalf Mahe Fungupo who was a standout for the NSW Country Cockatoos, Eagles 7s player Jack Halalilo, and Eagle Seamus Kelly. Both Fungupo and Halalilo will start while Kelly, who just joined the team, is on the bench. Expect SFGG to once again come out with attacking flair.
Olympic Club retain the core group of their team from last year. Last season was a learning season for the club and now with an additional year under their belts and a few reinforcements the club is hoping for better results this year. In particular the club is looking at Ante Drazina to have a big year. Olympic Club have the weapons to score, especially in the backs with the likes of Colin Hawley and Dustin Muhn, but SFGG is a big task.
OMBAC vs. Glendale (Saturday, 3:00 p.m. pt, Little Q)
It’s only week one but the match between OMBAC and Glendale already looms large for both teams who fancy their chances of finishing in the top two. OMBAC have made a number of additions in the offseason, including Todd Clever, that address needs of the team. They’ve also had a busy offseason with matches against the NSW Country Cockatoos, St. Mary’s, and a few SoCal DI matches. Those matches have been critical to getting players on the same page.
All of that said, Glendale were the top team in the regular season last year and barely missed out on a title on their home turf. They’ve kept their team mostly intact and have added Nick Wallace, Mose Timoteo, Jack Bristol, and Garrett Brewer. Those are very strong additions that any team would enjoy. Wallace helps shore up the front-row with Zach Fenoglio while Bristol fills in for the retired Casey Rock at lock. Expect the Raptors to come out attacking. They only thing that might slow them down this weekend is the fact that they haven’t had any warm-up matches and will be traveling on the road.
Belmont Shore vs. Santa Monica (Saturday, 3:00 p.m. pt, Cal State-Long Beach)
This match features two teams looking to rebound after disappointing 2014 seasons. Belmont Shore by their own admittance took last season too lightly. Look for that to change this season with Belmont coming out with their best effort from day one. Jack Tracy, Peter Sio, Hayden Pitts, and Ian Carpenter keep the core of the team intact while newcomers Josh Williams and Joe Taufetee will give the team extra muscle in the front row. Of course the player to keep an eye on is Mike Te’o, who will be starting at fullback for the club. He’s electric and can make a try out of nothing.
Santa Monica scored in bunches last season but couldn’t keep opposing teams off the scoreboard. To fix that problem they have added a bunch of new players, including the halfback pairing of scrumhalf Charlie Purdon from South Africa and Harry Bennett from Australia. Bennett will also captain the side. Mathieu Lesgourges is once again expected to give the Dolphins a strong option on attack but the team will also have to deal with the absence of Dave Martini who moved to Toronto. The team is also missing new prop Chris Baumann who is in Eagles forwards camp. If they can up their defense from last year and be a better second half team they are capable of anything.