Men’s Club Championship Finals determined after competitive playoff rounds

LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Six teams managed to win two Club Playoff matches over the weekend, qualifying them for National Championship matches in Men's Division I, II and III fields.

One of last year's finalists, Austin Blacks, have earned another crack at the DI title after weekend victories over Dallas Reds and Life West Gladiators. A year after falling to the New York Athletic Club in the Club Final, Austin has Mystic River, DI winner in the east, standing between itself and a National Championship.

In DII, the Tempe Old Devils will contend with the Detroit Tradesmen for a title at the June 4-5 USA Rugby Club Championships, while the DIII trophy will be settled between Euless Texans and Fairfield Yankees.

After splitting their two meetings in the Red River Conference, Austin and Dallas renewed the Lone-Star rivalry in a Quarterfinal at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson, Ariz. A year after being knocked out by the Blacks in the National Semifinals, Dallas held a second-half lead before a late drop goal ended the Reds' season and advanced Austin to the Semifinals to face a Life West squad that outlasted the San Diego Old Aztecs, 31-22.

In a bit of a surprise, the Blacks bombarded the Gladiators by scoring the match's first 30 points before taking their foot off the gas to ease to a 30-17, Day 2 win.

In the eastern Playoffs hosted at Founders Field in Pittsburgh, Mystic River officially re-welcomed itself to club rugby's elite by knocking off Midwest Champion Metropolis in the Quarterfinals before using a penalty kick and an Evin O'Driscoll try to narrowly oust Old Blue of New York, 10-5.

Tempe will head back to Nationals for the first time since losing in the 2014 DII Final. The Old Devils received two tries from center James Vaifale and a hat trick by blind side flanker Richard Darrow on their way to a 46-15 Quarterfinal win over the Sacramento Capitals. Next up for Tempe was an equally physical Provo squad that blasted the Little Rock Stormers, 52-30, in its Quarterfinal.

Three tries helped launch a 20-0 halftime lead for the Old Devils. The Steelers were able to open the second frame with consecutive penalty kicks, but that is as close as the Frontier Champions would get, and Tempe would leave with a 27-6 win.

Detroit should be able to add plenty of firepower to its DII Finals fixtures against Tempe. The Tradesmen combined for 99 points in weekend wins over Charlotte and the Village Lions to advance to Club Championships.

The Blacks will not be the only team from the Lone Star state making plans for Club Championships in Glendale, Colo. Euless is also heading to the Rocky Mountains after it appeared the Texans would not make it out of the quarterfinals. Trailing the St. Louis Royals, 24-12, Euless reeled off the game's final 19 points for an amazing, 31-24, comeback win. In yesterday's Semifinal, Euless endured another sturdy test - this time against Napa Valley Rugby. However, the Texans remained poised under pressure and dispatched Napa Valley, 31-22.

The task should only get tougher for Euless as it will match up with a Fairfield team that looked very strong in Quarterfinal and Semifinal wins over the weekend. In Saturday's Quarterfinal, Yankee Karl Rempe personally outscored Rocky Gorge's DIII side. The outside center opened the game with a try, then proceeded to add three conversions and two penalty kicks for 17 points in Fairfield's 39-12 win.

A tale of two halves dictated Sunday's Semifinal between the Yankees and the Bremer County Bucks. In the first half, four different Bucks scored tries, while full back Russell Randall added a conversion and a penalty for a 20-17 lead at intermission. Fairfield's halftime talk, particularly regarding defense, must have struck a cord with the team as the Yankees refused to surrender a single point in the second frame. Meanwhile, first-half try-scorers Joe Bonano and Matt Leonard dotted down for a second time, and Fairfield returned to Connecticut with a 43-20 victory.

Austin and Mystic River will battle it out for a Men's Division I National Championship on the first day of the June 4-5 USA Rugby Club Championships at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. The Men's DII and DIII Finals will be played Sunday June 5. Saturday's DI fixture is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. MT following the Women's DI and DII National Championship Finals. The Club Championship action will pick up the following day at noon MT when Euless tangles with Fairfield  for the DIII championship, followed by Tempe versus the Detroit Tradesmen for the DII title at 2 p.m. MT. All five Club Championship matches will air live on The Rugby Channel.