Two of PRO's Highest Scoring Teams are Set to Square Off
Week 9 of PRO Rugby’s inaugural season looks to follow up last week’s nail biter of a match with a clash of two squads who currently find themselves in the middle of the current standings (SD #2, Ohio #3).
Last week, the newly coined San Diego Breakers lost a tough match versus The Denver Stampede in heartbreaking fashion, when Denver’s Will Magie hit the game winning conversion in the contest’s dying seconds. Now, the SoCal squad looks to rebound against an Ohio unit that is still licking the wounds of its most recent loss to the San Francisco Rush.
Getting that ‘rebound’, though, will be easier said than done. Although San Diego currently leads the league in total points scored (190 points, 31.6 AVG), Ohio remains not far behind at all (185 points, 30.8 AVG). The last time these two sides met up, San Diego got away with the win by a mere margin of 4 points.
At first glance, those numbers seem to tell you that these squads are pretty even, which in many ways, they are. But, a closer look reveals a little bit more about the style and manner in which the points are obtained, and why one team might have a slight advantage over the other.
As anyone who has poured over this season’s statistics will tell you (No? Just me? Okay.), San Diego’s Kurt Morath has been on a penalty/conversion spree since the team’s first game of the year, currently holding a league leading total of 86 points (14.3 AVG). And although San Diego has managed to get at least 1 try from 12 of its current players (19 total, 3.1 per game), it’s no secret that Morath’s boot has been the key to a large majority of their success.
Ohio on the other hand, has been on a try-scoring frenzy this season, with 27 being put down among 9 different players (AVG 4.5 per game). Three Aviators are also currently ranking in the top 3 try scorers of the season so far (Sebastian Kalm-6, Aaron Davies-5, and Filippo Ferrarini-4).
The inability to find the try-zone more than once turned out to be the Breaker’s downfall last week, when they came within a hair of unseating the undefeated Stampede from the league’s top spot. Kurt Morath had a phenomenal 18 point day off of 6 different penalty conversions, but it just barely wasn’t enough to lift his team to victory. In fact, in the end, Kurt Morath’s missed after-try conversion proved to the most crucial error of the match.
Denver’s Will Magie had a few issues in converting penalties into points himself, which in the end could have costed his team dearly. But, the tries scored by his teammates (along with his after-try conversions all finding their mark) provided just enough support that any errors by the English-born leg were rendered null and void.
Despite their remarkable ability to find the try-zone like blood hounds to a steak, Ohio was brought back down to earth two weeks ago when the previously winless San Francisco Rush upset the Aviators 35-20. One key difference between that meeting and all of San Fran’s previous ones though, is that they were finally in the company of All Blacks legend Mils Muliaina on the pitch, who of course, found the try-zone almost instantly.
Ohio clearly wants to go out on Sunday and prove that they are among the best. San Diego wants to go out with the hope that they can close in on first place ahead of their week 13 rematch with Denver.
In the end, this contest I going to come down to defense. Can Ohio keep San Diego out of their zone while avoiding the costly penalties that give Morath the chances to put up points? And can San Diego stop the relentless attack of the Aviators offense that has put up more 5-pointers than any other?
Calling this game is almost as difficult as last weeks. But, I'm going to go with the Aviators in this one. Finding the try-zone multiple times every game while not leaning on your kicker is always the best formula for victory. Plus, they have a week's more worth of rest than the Breakers.
San Diego: 24
Catch the match on Sunday, 3 P.M EST.
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