PRO Rugby Weekend Review: Aviators Continue to Crush It in Obetz

This past weekend’s match was the first of a three week stretch where teams will find themselves short-handed due to the international break. San Diego was clearly hit harder by their losses, while Ohio saw a few reinforcements come in and put in huge performances. Meanwhile in international play, the USA Eagles are still in camp but PRO Rugby players have already made an impact for Canada and Tonga.

Ohio 55-31 San Diego

It’s hard to take too much away from this match, other than how fun it was to watch as a neutral spectator. San Diego fans may not have enjoyed the match nearly as much, but they can take comfort in the fact that their squad put up a good fight despite missing a fair number of impact players. Ryan Matyas had a few big runs in the first half to get the Breakers attack going, and Ben Leatigaga scored two tries after coming off the bench. The first half was truly competitive, perhaps more than the 27-17 halftime score indicated, and that reflects well on the depth of the Breakers. But the Breakers defense never figured out how to stop Ohio’s most dynamic athletes, and that’s what lead to this scoreline.

Dom Waldouck, coming across the pond from the London Irish, immediately made an impact with a hat trick in his Ohio Aviators debut. Ohio’s massive wing duo of Spike Davis and Alex Elkins also had a big day, with both players picking up two tries. While this was a typical day at the office for Davis, it was perhaps a breakthrough performance for Elkins. And although he didn’t score, it’s worth mentioning that Riekert Hattingh also had a good debut. Hattingh comes over from the Currie Cup side Blue Bulls and has also played with the Austin Blacks, and he immediately found himself starting for an Ohio back row that was already among the best in the league.

Ohio moves into second place with the victory, which is disappointing for a San Diego side that had a chance to move to the top of the table just a week ago. San Diego will try to snap their losing streak at home against San Francisco next week, while Ohio returns to Denver for a rematch of the league’s inaugural contest.

PRO Rugby Players in International Tests

Four PRO Rugby players started in Canada’s 26-22 defeat at the hands of the Brave Blossoms of Japan. Ray Barkwill was the only player of the PRO contingent to score after fighting through the Japanese goal-line defense for a try in the 21st minute. Nick Blevins’ most notable touch came when he was stripped of the ball by Taiyo Ando, who would take the ball past Canada’s 22-metre line to kick-start Japan’s attacking efforts. The Times Colonist post-match article includes quotes for Jake Ilnicki discussing the match and what it means for Canadian rugby moving forward.

Pila Iongi put in good work for the Tongan national team during their 23-18 loss to Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup opener . Iongi scored the first try for the Tongans in the 27th minute of the first half, helping build a 15-0 halftime lead. Fiji’s attack picked up steam in the second half, and a try-saving tackle from Iongi only delayed the Fijian comeback.

USA Eagles Assembly Updates

The USA Rugby Twitter account tweeted out on Saturday that Shaun Davies was released to play for the Aviators this weekend. An update today reveals additional cuts from the Eagles assembly, including Sacramento’s Olive Kilifi and Denver’s Brodie Orth. Davies’ cut was somewhat surprising as that leaves the team with two scrum-halves from the Eagles’ sevens team, neither of which acts as the primary scrum-half for that team – that would be Madison Hughes. However, John Mitchell is more focused on improving fitness than his predecessors and it’s very likely that Shalom Suniula and Nate Augspurger are in better shape from training in Chula Vista. Kilifi’s cut is similarly surprising given his performances in league play but this group of front row players is fairly deep (by Eagles standards, at least). Brodie Orth hasn’t started consistently for Denver due to an injury and it’s certainly possible that he’s still not at 100%.

According to the broadcast crew for this week’s match, Roland Suniula has joined the Eagles assembly. This would explain his absence from Ohio’s roster this week and it does appear from other social media posts that he is indeed in San Diego. USA Rugby has not confirmed this addition.

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