Rugby Super League: Week ONE Preview: March 11, 2011
The 2011 Rugby Super League (RSL) season kicks off this Saturday with two highly anticipated games on show. The newly formed Utah Warriors travel to take on the Denver Barbarians and 2010 RSL Finalists San Francisco Golden Gate travel to the Dallas Harlequins. For the RSL schedule, player and team stats, and match reports, visit the Super League website.
Utah Warriors @ Denver Barbarians:
Saturday March 12, 4:30 p.m., Shea Stadium, Denver
"Not a whole lot to report from Denver," according to their new Super League Coach Jason Kelly, "The boys are excited to get started this weekend." First up for them is the newest team to join the RSL, The Utah Warriors. Utah is a largely unknown side but Kelly is assuming that they will be strong in the backs, especially in the back three.
Denver will be concentrating on their own game and implementing what they have been practicing on the training ground. Kelly likes to involve all his players; everyone gets their opportunity. Denver's side is mostly unchanged from last year with just a couple of local additions. One notable absence is the Barbarian #8 and USA Eagle, Nic Johnson, who landed a pro contract in Europe. Regardless, Denver is looking to compete and improve on last season.
Utah on the other hand has assembled the very best available talent from the state, according to their head coach Jon Law. The Warriors are looking to make an impact immediately, and what better way to start than taking on the Denver Barbarians on the road?
Law knows that the Super League is filled with outstanding teams and that his players will need to balance brain and brawn if they are to compete at this level. Utah will be athletic and physical, but will they be able to create the space needed to open up their back line? Will their skill level be adequate? A few questions Law hopes will be answered this coming weekend. Utah has gone with local talent by assembling a team primarily made up of Utah athletes. Mike Palefau, Sa Palepoi, Sateki Nau, Jason Pye, Saia Vainuku, and Matt Byrd anchor the team with the addition of Ben Nicholls (Zimbabwe), Ryan Chapman (Colorado) and Kite Afeaki (Nevada) to fill some gaps. Utah is anxious to get their season under way and showcase what they can do on the field.
San Francisco Golden Gate @ Dallas Harlequins:
Saturday March 12, 3:30 p.m., Glencoe Park, Dallas
"The Quins have a massive challenge ahead of them this season," said Dallas head coach, Michael Engelbrecht. Engelbrecht goes on to say that, "Competing in the RSL is getting tougher and tougher from both a financial and on field performance perspective."
The Quins have been hit hard by injuries and retirements as well as the loss of some key youth like Zak Mizell who has gone to play in the College Premier Division at Arkansas State University. The Quins pride themselves on physical play and stout defense – something that they need to replicate this season for them to achieve any level of success. On attack they are looking to keep the ball alive and quickly move the point of contact to challenge opposing defensive structures.
The team is effectively led by uncompromising captain Pete Van Scoy at lock and supported in the tight five by a fast and skillful front row that includes Jimmy Jewison at loose head prop and Kevin Becker at hooker. The loose forward trio is becoming settled and is working well together with aggressive and fast Gonzalo Ruiz at #8, smart and skillful Tim McNeeley at openside, and big-hitting Derrick Thomas at blindside who is playing some of the best rugby of his career.
Quins are hoping their pack can produce quick ball to give their back line time and space. They are relying on Robert Thraves (Scrumhalf), Charles Davidson (Flyhalf), and Leon Guerin (Fullback) to shoulder their backline. Quins have been unable to field the same lineup coming into the season so are hoping this combination can settle in quickly and play like they have been practicing, with pace, power, and purpose. The Quins are looking forward to what promises to be a grueling RSL season with an opening day matchup versus San Francisco Golden Gate.
"Nothing like testing yourself out of the shoot against one of the top clubs in the USA," says Coach Michael Engelbrecht. He has had many opportunities to coach alongside SFGG Head Coach Paul Keeler and Engelbrecht acknowledges Keeler is one of the top coaches in the country saying, "I really respect the way Paul does things and especially enjoy the way he thinks about the game."
Golden Gate is stacked with national team players in
Samu Manoa, Chris Biller, Daniel LaPrevotte, and Volney Rouse but SFGG has plenty of talent besides those players and they will be looking to start their RSL season off with a win.
This is a fixture that will quickly demonstrate what areas of the game are working well for the Quins and which areas will need continued focus.
About the US Rugby Super League
The Rugby Super League is sanctioned by USA Rugby as the premier level of Men's Club competition in the USA. The Rugby Super League is managed and administrated by the League within the guidelines of USA Rugby and is subject to the international laws of the game. The 2011 season will showcase 11 teams competing in two conferences with scheduled season play and two rounds of playoff games - culminating in the Rugby Super League Championship match on May 21, 2011. The competition runs from Mid-March to May each year.
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The Official Ball of Rugby Super League