Club Rugby Saturday 6-Pack 2-24-18

As the weeks fly by and winter turns to spring, urgency creeps further and further into teams’ seasons. The meaning behind each result becomes more and more critical, not just for the teams involved but for many of the teams in the division. This week’s 6-pack continues to highlight some of the most impactful games throughout the country.

Carolina's Men's Division III: Cape Fear Rugby vs. Clayton Bootleggers:

This week's featured game pins the top two teams from the East division of the Carolinas Division III league, Cape Fear and Clayton.  Cape Fear has been a team that has been dominant in the Carolinas for quite some time now, as evidenced by the fact they have won 2 out of the last 3 division titles, and look well on their way to make it 3 out of 4. Clayton on the other hand is still a young club, having only been founded in 2013. Despite their youth, they have shown consistent growth and have ambitious plans to say the least.

"We put together an extensive five year plan to lay out a road map for our club...The biggest ticket item in the plan is acquiring our own facilities," explained Ted Hardy, President of the Bootleggers. Part of what has allowed for these lofty and impressive plans has been the Bootleggers ability to recruit and retain players. They currently have around 60 active members, as well as 15 social members. The other part has been patience. Despite having poor win loss records in their early seasons, the Bootleggers felt comfortable waiting the initial struggles out. "As we started to grow, we knew that success on the pitch would eventually follow. We never felt any pressure to win immediately. We set out to lay a foundation so that we could be successful for the next 50 years as opposed to trying to win as soon as possible." Their patience could well be tested again this weekend.

Cape Fear has been around since the '70s and in the past several years they have been dominating their competition, and this year has been no different. Their success, similarly to the Bootleggers, has come from player retention. "One of the things we have tried to do is to focus on retaining players and building our club.  Like most clubs, Cape Fear has experienced the ebb and flow of rugby at the club level.  Some years are good and some are not so good.  These past few years have been some of the good years for us as a club," explained John Metzger, Head Coach of Cape Fear.

This year Cape Fear has started off winning all of their games - and have earned themselves a bonus point in each of their victories. Retention has been a big reason behind their success this year. As Metzger laid out, the difference this year has been the well they've been able to draw from. "[In] years past, Fear has been a first half team, usually getting scores and holding on to a lead as the opposition crawls back.  However, this season, we are a bit deeper on the bench and have done a better job of substituting at the half and near the end of the game.  As a result, we have been much more competitive in the second half," noted Metzger. One such second-half performance came against Clayton when they met in the Fall. As Clayton's Ted Hardy put it, "We lost 4-5 key players over the span of about 10 minutes to start the 2nd half and we came undone. [We] lost our structure and we started chasing the game. Like a good side does, Fear saw the blood in the water and put us to the sword."

Cape Fear know that they will have to work hard for the result this weekend, and they're ensuring that their last matchup does not lead to inflated egos. "This weekend we expect a very close game.  Clayton is a club that has developed a great deal in the last few years. Each time we play them they get better and the matches have been much more competitive. They will be at home and I expect they will come out strong."

Clayton has similar expectations. "Saturday is going to be a real test. It is also going to be our first foray into live streaming, so the pressure is on to put in a good performance." 

If Cape Fear wins this match, it will all but secure the division title for 2017-18.

Southern California Women's Division II: Old Pueblo Lightning vs. Pasadena Rugby:

The Lightning and Pasadena will go toe to toe in a top of the table clash. Both teams have started off the season in perfect fashion, each going 3-0 and picking up a bonus point in all of their games. Old Pueblo has been putting together complete performances on both sides ruck, as they have amassed a points differential of 142 points, almost doubling Pasadena's (which is still an impressive 79). Old Pueblo has been led by their hybrid center and number 8, Jessica Szakacs, who has scored five tries in her three appearances this season. Not to be out done, Pasadena has a try scoring machine of their own in Vanessa Gardner, who has crossed the white line six times.

Pacific Rugby Premiership: Belmont Shore Rugby vs. Old Mission Beach Athletic (OMBAC):

In what is one of the most historic rivalries in American Club Rugby, Belmont Shore will face off against OMBAC and etch another chapter into their book of feuds. While, there is never a shortage of passion in these encounters, this one will have added flare as the winner will sit atop the PRP ladder. Belmont, who currently sits in pole position, will be looking to their loose forwards to carry a fair share of the load; particularly #8, Keni Nasoqeqe. Nasoqeqe was influential in their win last weekend over the Olympic Club, scoring a hat trick of tries. OMBAC will be looking to shift the ball out to the wings and get it into the hands of their own finisher Tim Stanfill (#455), who has a 100% strike rate, scoring two tries in as many games. This game will surely keep the scoreboard busy.   

Pacific Northwest Men's Division III: Seattle Quake vs. Budd Bay Buffaloes:

Another top of the table clash this weekend features the IGR member Seattle Quake up against the top of the table Budd Bay Buffaloes. This game is crucial for both teams, as it will provide the winner with some breathing space in the standings. The Buffaloes, who sit in first with 29 points, have played one more game than Seattle this year. Despite the game disadvantage, Seattle is only one point behind the Buffaloes on the ladder. Seattle has had an impressive season thus far, producing an impressive points differential of 140 points, and beat the Buffaloes in their earlier meeting, 31-27. Both teams have prolific try scorers, and both teams look their inside centers for their try-scoring inspiration. For Budd Bay that means tossing the ball to Nicholas Woods, and for Seattle it is Aaron Stanton. Coincidently, both men have scored five tries for their teams this year.

Red River Women's Division II: Little Rock Stormers vs. Dallas Rugby:

In our 5th top of the table clash this weekend we see Little Rock taking on Dallas Rugby. This is first year that Dallas is fielding a women's team, as the larger club looks to build off the monumental success of its men's program in recent years. Little Rock is a former D1 team that has made the move down to the second division. Both teams like to score, and score often. Courtney Sallings of Little Rock has scored four times in the space of two games. Dallas has a prolific scorer of their own in back-three specialist Destiny Corrales. Corrales has scored a whopping seven tries in three games. The winner of this game will be in first place in their division.

Red River Men's Division II: Austin Blacks D2 vs. Houston Athletic Rugby Club (HARC):

This match up pins two cross divisional rivals against each other. Both teams sit in 2nd in their respective divisions but are well within striking distance of the top spot, as each team has played fewer matches than the teams in first. If Austin wins they will be the new leader of their division; if HARC wins they will remain in second but will have a game up their sleeve. HARC will have to shut down the Blacks' Fly Half, Vincent Dutton, if they are to have any chance. Dutton has been lethal with both his boot and ball-in-hand, having scored 7 tries and kicked his fair share of points, too. For the Blacks, they will need to find a way of stopping Jordan Demars, HARC's open-side flanker. Demars is a force when he runs with the ball, and has been able to hit pay-dirt 4 times this year - a strike rate of 100%.