Big weekend in Cali: Club Rugby Saturday 6-pack

This week's Club Rugby Saturday Six-Pack sees the resumption of play on the East Coast, and ever-tightening standings as teams continue their march towards the 2018 playoffs. 

Mid-Atlantic Men's Division I: Norfolk Blues vs. Pittsburgh Harlequins:

In this week's focus match, the Mid-Atlantic kicks things up a gear when the Pittsburgh Harlequins take a trip down to Virginia to take on the Norfolk Blues. Both teams are chasing Rocky Gorge Rugby, but sit second (Pittsburgh) and third (Norfolk) in the standings. To date, Pittsburgh has played three more games than Norfolk, so the Blues are in a strong position to overtake the Harlequins with a win this weekend. As such, both teams are going into this fixture expecting a tough matchup.

Norfolk, who currently enjoys a 6-1 record, has put their success down to their conditioning. Chris Porter, their coach, has been putting his team through their paces all season during training, so that when they come out on Saturday they are firing on all cylinders.

"This season we have focused on playing a full 80 minutes of rugby and so far, it has gone well. The boys are playing just as strong in the last 20 minutes as they did in the first 20. We are continuing with the fitness work we put in during the fall. We are also focusing on practicing under pressure. All the drills and simulated play we do at training are structured to put our guys under pressure to simulate game speed," stated Porter.

It is clear that Porter is looking to a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" plan, and it is one that has worked for him in the past. Even Harlequins President Geoff Jordan admitted as much, noting that, "Norfolk has been one of the most consistent clubs in the MAC in recent years. We know we are heading into the Lion's Den when traveling to Norfolk."

While the Blues will be looking to their conditioning to carry them over the line, the Harlequins will be looking to their defense to pave the way for them. Jordan puts a lot of the team's success this season down to their defense, and believes it will play a major role this weekend. "We can't give Norfolk any space. We need to play team defense," Jordan reiterated.

Defense will be crucial, as both teams look to maintain possession, keeping the ball out of the others' hands. As Jordan explained, "We must maintain possession and not turn the ball over... We need to take care of the ball when we have it and put them under pressure while on defense. We will be looking to control the pace of the match and play to our strengths."

With both teams being adamant about their commitment to defense this week don't be surprised if this is a bruising encounter without too many points being put up on the scoreboard. 

Southern California Women's Division II: Ventura County Lady Outlaws vs. San Fernando Valley Rugby

Both teams are locked in a tight battle for fourth on the ladder at 2-2. However, due to bonus points Ventura County is in sole position of 4th, which San Fernando will be looking to change this weekend. Ventura County will be counting on their fly-half Yuako Kawakatsu to lead the way. Kawakatsu has been a force with ball in hand this year scoring a team-leading five tries. Ventura County, meanwhile, will be looking to their fly half, Korinna Fite, who has also crossed the line five times this year. It will be a massive game, and should have large ramifications on the final standings.

True South Men's Division III: Montgomery Yellowhammers vs. Pensacola Rugby

In another top of the table clash this weekend, Montgomery takes on Pensacola. The Yellowhammers have gone an impressive 4-0 in their division, while not too far behind them is Pensacola at 3-1. Notably, these two will play against each other twice in the next two weeks. If the Yellowhammers win this weekend they will have secured the title for the True South D3 South Division. So far, they have been running through their opposition with ease, and have compiled a point differential of 170 points, while Pensacola has a point differential of 58. With home ground advantage in their favor, the Yellowhammers will be looking to lock the title up this weekend.

Rocky Mountain Men's Division III: Littleton Eagles vs. Colorado Springs Grizzlies

In the Rocky Mountain third division, second-placed Littleton, former club of recently capped USA Eagle, Cody Melphy, hosts first-placed Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs is undefeated and has already beaten Littleton twice this season. Colorado Springs' point differential is 158 points, while Littleton has had less successes separating themselves from the competition amassing a smaller tally of 36. Littleton's top try scorer is their loose head prop, Louie Wilson, who has crossed the whitewash six times for the Eagles. The go-forward from their forwards will be the key to any chance Littleton has of knocking off the Grizzlies. Contrary to the Eagles, the Grizzlies will be pushing for the ball to be played in the middle of the field and placed in the hands of their inside center, Devon McIntosh. McIntosh has been an absolute nightmare this year and has crossed the line for seven five-pointers this season. With five games left in the season, the title is still on the line, but a Grizzlies win will all but secure their spot in the Frontier Conference playoffs.

Northern California Senior Women's Division II: San Francisco Golden Gate vs. Life West Gladatrix D2

A battle of second and third is taking place in Northern California's second division for women. Life West, second, and San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG), third, are both currently playing catch-up to the Sacramento Amazons and a loss this weekend will end any chance of catching them. For SFGG this game will have added importance, as they were last year's national runner-up, and they will be wanting to make sure they put themselves in a position to go one better this year. Unfortunately, a loss could end any hopes of that. SFGG has been unable to string together a series of wins this season, and they will hope to start a streak this week. Life West, on the other hand, have only one blemish on their record, and were able to beat SFGG in their earlier fixture. A win here would put them within striking distance of the Amazons, and with those two teams facing each other next weekend, the title could very well be on the line.

Carolinas Men's Division III: Asheville Rugby vs. Charlotte Rugby D3

The Carolinas are on our mind this weekend when the top two teams from Carolinas Men's D3 West line up against each other. Asheville sits on the divisional throne with only one loss, which came courtesy of their opponent this weekend, Charlotte Rugby D3. If Asheville is able to get revenge for their round one loss, they will have secured the west title.

Last Week's Results

Northern California Men's Division III: Diablo Olde Gaels 12-22 Colusa County Rugby
Northern California Men's Division II: San Jose Seahawks 46-46 Sacramento Blackhawks
Samurai Sportswear Pacific Rugby Premiership: Old Mission Beach Athletic 28-14 San Francisco Golden Gate
Pacific South Men's Division II: Las Vegas Irish 19-15 Pasadena Rugby
Southern California Women's Division I/II Crossover: Tempe Ninjas 41-0 Old Pueblo Lightning
Southern California Women's Division I/II Crossover: Belmont Shore Rugby 38-12 Las Vegas Slots