The beauty of this year’s Super League schedule is that every team plays its conference-mates twice.
That means that this weekend’s meeting between Old Puget Sound Beach and San Francisco Golden Gate in the Bay Area will not be the be-all and end-all for either club.
A loss doesn’t mean 1st place is out of reach – it just means the issue is tabled until May 19.
Still, the game, the only Super League game on the slate this weekend, is a big one. OPSB is 1-0 and feels strong enough to challenge for a national title. SFGG is 2-0 and has played in the last three Super League finals, winning two.
Right now SFGG looks to be the stronger. Here’s why:
Concerned about massive changes in their back row with the retirement of Danny LaPrevotte, the pro contract of Samu Manoa, and the slow visa process for Bruce Thomas, SFGG landed on their feet with Opeti Okusi and Cal rookies Tom Rooke and Drew Hyjer. Add to that the fact that LaPrevotte is now coming back, well, they are very strong in an area thought to be a weakness.
Mose Timoteo and Volney Rouse may not be the flashiest halfbacks in the country, but they work superbly well together and form the best partnership at that position.
Few teams can match the power and sheer bulk of the SFGG front row of Paul Fukafuka, Patrick Latu, and Saimone Laulaupeaalu.
Other rookies, such as Nick Civetta and Neil Barrett, have strengthened the team and have slotted in well.
Old Puget Sound’s most dynamic player, Isimeli Daveta, is out for a good portion of the season with a broken collarbone (he underwent surgery this week) following a late, high, no-wrap challenge from Chicago Grffins flyhalf Roland Suniula (interesting aside – there will be no citing of this tackle; Super League policy is to not add on to any penalty issued by a ref unless it’s off the ball. Suniula got a yellow card and that’s it).
But they play the game for a reason, and OPSB does have something to say about the matter. Scrumhalf Ratu Emosi Vicago is really superb and is one of those halfbacks who can slide through the slightest gap around the ruck. SFGG will have to be vigilant.
Josh Osborn leads an improving forward pack that will need to win the grit battle, and can. A backline that includes Nick Hawkins, Pate Tuilevuka, possibly William Rasileka, and Fili Botitu is dynamic in the extreme. While SFGG’s backline is quick and runs a daring attack – Brendan O’Meara is making waves and Tevita Okusi just keeps making yardage, Samisoni Pone is a name you should know, and did we mention Jone Naqica scored two last week and they might have Albert Tuipulotu back too? – OPSB can play with the ball, too.
This will be an exciting game. Both teams love to run, and both teams can use their forwards mixed in with the backline attack.
With this kind of matchup, and with what is at stake, the game could well come down to goalkicking. Here, SFGG has an advantage. Volney Rouse is an outstanding kicker, and he also knows the vagaries of the winds at Sheeran Field on Treasure Island. Every little bit helps.