Sixteen DI clubs are in league action this weekend in California and Texas.
In Texas the Austin Blacks will be feeling pretty good after a 50-10 defeat of Forth Worth. This was a week after the Blacks scraped past HARC 26-22 in a game where Head Coach Lachlan Ferguson was disappointed with his team’s execution.
The Blacks certainly converted their scoring opportunities against Fort Worth, and the newly-promoted Woodlands team might expect more of the same.
The Dallas Harlequins, wallowing at 0-1 since their one and only league game so far, back on December 8, face Fort Worth and will certainly want to get that first victory out of the way. The big game could well be the Dallas Reds at HARC. Houston is 0-2, but a competitive 0-2. Dallas won comfortably against Woodlands but will have to show up on the road.
The Reds have a strong forward pack that is only beginning to put things together.
In Northern California, it’s all be somewhat stop-start, and mostly stop as four of the first five games on the schedule have been no results (one of those games was played, but called late by the ref for handbag-swinging on both sides).
This weekend SFGG expects to visit the East Palo Alto Razorbacks, and while the San Francisco club might be resting one or two players, they are expected to run out most of their top-flight guys. Mose Timoteo and Samisoni Pone will renew their halfback relationship. Danny LaPrevotte suits up at No. 8. Saimone Laulaupeaalu and Chris Biller are rested from the front row, but when you can bring in former Cal standout Neil Barrett at hooker and the imposing Paula Fukafuka at prop, you’re doing OK.
The Razorbacks have struggled somewhat in recent years, but at least they’re pitching up.
Meanwhile the East Palo Alto Bulldogs visit the Sacramento Lions in a game that is really a race for 2nd in the league. The Bulldogs are extremely tough and punishing in the forwards.
“Sacramento Lions is a very strong, good team,” said Bulldogs Head Coach Iuna Telefoni. “All the Bulldogs can do is play rugby this weekend.”
Sacramento Lions Head Coach Iferemie Tawake might well have the same message. He earlier had to admonish his team to not point fingers when they make mistakes. It is still early, he said, and while the team has been playing good defense, the Lions need to click on offense, too. Against a physical Bulldogs team it is easy to become dismantled.
In Southern California, the league is nicely underway. OMBAC won a nice victory to start their season and then were slapped away by Belmont Shore 48-23 last week.
They will want to get back on track, but it’s unclear whether they will have Zach Pangelinan back to play flyhalf against the Old Aztecs, as he just finished up a tough USA 7s camp. Expect him to suit up for a bit, at least, and for OMBAC to win.
Belmont Shore (2-0) is at Back Bay, with Back Bay looking to make a statement with this game. Santa Monica and Los Angeles are two clubs that fancy themselves playoff caliber. The Dolphins are at LA this weekend, and come into the match a bit banged up.
Last week, during their 61-17 victory over the San Diego Old Aztecs, flyhalf Brian O’Shea ruptured his Achilles Tendon while scoring a try. He is out for the year. Captain Ken Aseme separated his shoulder, and won’t play this week, while prop Ross Silverman is also injured and won’t play.
“I think it’s really scary to go into Los Angeles with these injuries,” said Santa Monica Head Coach Doug Bratcher. “LA is always a tough team and beat Las Vegas last week. I think every team in this league should look at themselves as being a top-four team. They are all good enough.”
Bratcher said the team will have to handle the injuries, and will do so by playing smart team defense. They have started well defensively, holding Belmont Shore to 12 and Old Aztecs to 17.
“We looked at it as a coaching staff and felt this was a part of the game we needed to get right,” Bratcher said. “We had all those close games in recent years and what let us down was our defense at critical points in the game.”