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Round 10 of the Pacific Rugby Premiership kicks off and while it might be a shade early to start talking about playoffs.


Last week's highlights




Oddly, only one of this week's matchups has happened before - Santa Monica against Olympic Club in Week 6.


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With the championship game now a mere six weeks away, it is time to look at where the teams are in their chase for the top two spots.

Sitting pretty, of course, at the Glendale Raptors. The Colorado team has lost just one game and have more than two games' worth of points between them and their closest competitors, SFGG.

Golden Gate had played one less game, however. And they play the #3 team, Belmont Shore, this weekend in San Francisco. This is essentially a battle for a playoff spot right here.

Belmont Shore seemed to have found its defensive voice in the last few weeks, although they were undercut by three cards against Glendale, and what appeared to be fatigue in their 30-24 defeat of Olympic Club this past weekend.

"Our defense was better in the two games preceding that one," said Shore captain and lock Ian Carpenter. "I don't know if the guys got tired or what. For us that Glendale game was a game we felt we absolutely had to win, and we did everything in our power to put that game away. But we lost, and the residual effects of that hurt us. That's not to say O-Club didn't play well, but I don't think we were giving our best."

The game in Glendale was interesting in that Belmont Shore led 25-10 before the cards started getting handed out. Had they won that game, Shore would be 5-2 and in second, probably just a few points behind Glendale.

That's all changed.

"Every game here on out is a must-win," said Carpenter. "We talk about it in practice every week, every player. We feel our backs are against the wall."

Carpenter is an ideal captain to have with you in that scenario, and he and lock Sam Lilley have not backed down one inch. But also pulling the team along is a tough front row that includes Jake Grubbs, Mike Sweet, and Brice Schilling.

"Schilling's always been a competitor and always been a good player," said Carpenter. "He doesn't get the recognition - at least not until he was named a mid-season all-star. We've been giving him a hard time about that and I think it's motivated him to play better. He is a technician in the scrums and has a good rugby IQ. Mike Sweet's new to the program from Wyoming. One of our old boys is in Wyoming and saw him and told him if you want to really get better get out to California and player with Belmont Shore. He's improving every week and he's of those surprise players you didn't know you were going to get."

Of course, SFGG has a pretty good front row, too, and Paula Fukafuka against Jake Grubbs might be a seismic impact for both sides. Neil Barrett and Mosese Atiola round out that unit. SFGG has a shift in their lock pairing, with Tom Rooke coming in for the absent Michael Stack. USA 7s player Danny Barrett is on the bench as a guest player, and he might join his brother Neil at some point, and if Grant Hyjer comes on, the SFGG pack could have five Cal grads playing together.

David Tameilau comes in at No. 8 for Rooke. But the key for SFGG is continuity in their backline. Mose Timote, Volney Rouse, Mile Pulu, Soni Pone, Peter Moala, Andre Coquillard, and Tai Enosa have been the unit with few interruptions for the past few weeks.

Also on the docket, Santa Monica and Olympic Club face off in a game that might confirm who will finish last in the PRP. That's a tough place to be because all of the teams have been extremely competitive.

Meanwhile, waiting for someone to slip up are Denver and OMBAC. Old Mission Beach exploded for 55 points in the second half of their game against Santa Monica last week. They did that by being patient and using their forwards to set a platform. It also helped that their backs stopped turning the ball over.

OMBAC has been bringing in guest players from the USA 7s residency program. Some, like Chris Turori-Bergquist, are regulars, while others (last week it was Thretton Palamo) have been less frequent. Palamo was certainly an exciting addition, but he won't be in the lineup this week. Instead, former West Point All American Will Holder gets time at inside center and former West Point All American Andrew Locke starts at scrumhalf - both are flyhalves, normally.

Another Army man, Ben Leaatigaga, is on the wing. All of that sounds exciting, but if OMBAC can't fit those pieces together, they might again have issues. Zach Pangelinan leads the league in points.

Denver, meanwhile, are without Ben Pinkelman, who is in Hong Kong with the USA U20s. But Brendan Shea, Tom Pasque, and Logan Collin are as opportunistic a group of back rowers as you'll find in the league. With Tyson Meek playing well at scrumhalf and Max De Achaval 3rd in the league in scoring, they have plenty of tools to punish OMBAC if they make mistakes.

OMBAC is at 4-2, but low down due to a lack of bonus points, and Denver is 4-4, and needs a victory to worry those above them.

Santa Monica (1-7) at Olympic Club (1-7)
OMBAC (4-2) at Denver (4-40
Belmont Shore (4-3) SFGG (5-2)


Notes: Pangelinan leads the league with 115 points in only six games. Second-place Mike Graham's Glendale Raptors have the week off - they are playing Park City Haggis just for fun. A good day for Max de Achaval may see him move into second.

Leading the league in tries is Glendale's Chad London as Dave Martini's scoring has tapered off somewhat. Martini, who has eight tries to London's nine, starts at left wing for the Dolphins this weekend.