Glendale hosts San Francisco Golden Gate Saturday for a big-time friendly. It’ll be the first time SFGG and the Raptors have ever played, and it’s a meeting between the defending Super League champ and the defending DI champ.
Both teams are markedly different than last year, having lost some really good players and picked up a couple of others.
Glendale lost promising lock Casey Rock to Brothers Rugby Club in New Zealand. Dustin Croy, who started at wing for the Raptors last season, is in New Zealand, too. Glendale also lost Alec Parker to retirement and another towering second-rower in Keith Doubek.
But, the Raptors have picked up some serious talent, too. Capped Eagle and former Super Rugby back James Paterson joined Glendale, as did World Cup No. 8 Nic Johnson. Ryan Chapman, capped against Japan last year, returned to Glendale after spending a season in Utah.
SFGG lost Samu Manoa and Chris Biller, both capped Eagles, to the Aviva Premiership, and another Eagle, Danny LaPrevotte, to retirement. But they’ve replaced those guys with All Americans and welcomed Jone Naqica back into the fold.
So, this isn’t exactly a plus-one scenario, with the champs of two leagues meeting, but it’s close enough to excited about.
Both SFGG and Glendale have suffered less-than-pleasing results recently. Glendale went on the road to Kansas City last month and tied the Blues, and SFGG was outdone at home against Old Puget Sound Beach last week. The results have both teams hungry for a statement win.
“I think it’s going to be a huge test for us, despite the results last week,” said Glendale coach Mark Bullock. “It’s rugby. Anything can happen.”
Winning Saturday won’t just be read about on this site or talked about on Facebook, it’ll be seen on Fox Soccer Plus, which is broadcasting the game on a tape delay (we will release the re-air schedule as soon as we know it).
Both teams have stars and quality players littered around the park, but the game could well be decided by the halfbacks. Starting for SFGG are the usuals -- Mose Timoteo and Volney Rouse, who almost always combine for a better 9-10 connection than the opponent. But starting for Glendale are Daryl Furlong and Nese Malifa. Furlong is a former Leinster age-grade player and Nese is Nese. Twin brother Ata will be to his inside at No. 12.
Adding to the already intriguing story line is the return of a few former Raptors, like Tevita Okusi and John Thomas, to Infinity Park. Naqica also played for Bullock when they were both with the Denver Barbarians in 2000.
Combine the champions versus champions angle, the fact that both want to beef their reputation after disappointing results, the bevy of Eagles or Eagle prospects on both teams, the television coverage, and the fact that a few guys are playing against their former coach and/or team, and this match looks like the most intriguing of the weekend.