Playoffs Aplenty in this Week’s Six Pack

As more and more regions throughout the country get entrenched in their playoffs, there is a lot of quality rugby on display this weekend.

New England Men's Division II: Mystic Barbarians vs. Irish Wolfhounds:
The New England Geographic Union gets its playoffs underway this weekend, and there is great grudge match highlighting the first round, between Mystic River Barbarians and the Boston Irish Wolfhounds. The Mystic Barbarians ran through their opposition this year without skipping a beat, for the most part. Their only hiccup this season came against their opponent this weekend, the Irish Wolfhounds. On that occasion back in October, the Wolfhounds were able to grind out a close win, 17-12. Since that win the Wolfhounds have been hard at work according to their coach, Kenneth Esterhuizen, stating that, "We've been making our weaknesses stronger, as well as looking at how we beat them and to a large extent its play and repeat. We have also been focusing on our fitness and conditioning, and throwing in a couple of surprises."

Mystic River, have been left with a bitter taste in their mouths after their loss, and according to their coach, Nick Murphy, they are ready to makes a mends for it, as proved when he was asked about how they felt about the loss. "Very motivating, we will have our work cut out for us as they are a strong, proud club, however we are a very competitive side we are looking forward to redeeming our performance in the previous game. We will need to bring our A game."

A large part of what helped the Wolfhounds win was their ability to apply pressure to the Barbarians throughout the match, suffocating any attacking flair that they tried to establish. This, as said by Esterhuizen, has been a large part of their gameplan heading into the weekend. When asked what the keys were to winning this weekend he replied, "To a degree our aggressive defensive systems, we've worked extensively on it and invested a lot of time into it."

With all the time that they've invested into their defensive structure, its pretty clear what the Wolfhounds are expecting from Mystic. "Any game against Mystic you're going to get strong attacking play, aggressive play. They've got a solid pack and a very good 9,10, and 12. We will need to focus on our defense and limiting our mistakes" Esterhuizen revealed.  

While, Mystic does possess a dynamic halves combination and a good inside, the Wolfhounds will need to be able to shut down the entire backline. Mystic's top try scorers this year have been their outside center, Matthew Dunleavy, and one of their wingers, Philip Bake-Coe. Between these two they have crossed the line fifteen times this season, and after they both failed to score back in October, they will undoubtedly be hungrier than ever to cross the line this weekend.

Mystic has similar expectations from the Wolfhounds too, Murphy adding, "We expect a very tough physical completive game, They are a well-coached well-balanced side 1- through15, they have a strong pack we will need to match in the set piece, and around the field. They have a lot of experience throughout their team and key players in the back row and at 9 and 10"

Ultimately this game is likely to come down to which team is able to secure possession and control the tempo of the game more. Mystic will be looking to play quickly and expansively, while the Wolfhounds will want to use defense as their main go forward, and draw Mystic into a game they aren't comfortable playing.

Women's Gold Cup: Detroit Rugby vs. Austin Valkyries:
This weekend signals the final rounds of the Gold Cup, in what has been an interesting tournament it will be closed out by two of the premier women's programs in the country. Detroit ran through the Midwest competition this year like a hot knife through butter, while Austin has been enjoying their season in the Red River competition, also going undefeated. However, the two teams have enjoyed very different campaigns throughout the Gold Cup, with the women from Detroit struggling to replicate their performances from the fall into the spring, and Austin has been putting up strong results throughout the competition. As both teams now head into their final matches before playoffs, Detroit will be hoping they can find a spark and reignite some of their form from merely six months ago. 

Carolinas-Georgia Women's Division II: Charlotte Rugby vs. Augusta Furies:
This weekend is the first weekend of playoffs for the teams in the women's second division of the True South competitive region, and with it brings a big clash. Charlotte Rugby, will host the Augusta Furies. Charlotte has been in sensational form over the course of the season, having won all of their matches and done so in emphatic fashion. The Furies, on the other hand, have been in fine form too but have not been able to win the big games, they will need to reverse this trend if they're to advance this week. The Furies will have their hands full trying to stop Charlotte, as the team from North Carolina has been dominant on both ends all year. Charlotte has scored a hair under 450 points this year while only conceding eight points. If the Furies are to have any chance of slowing their opponents down they will need to play a complete game from start to finish, while minimizing their unforced errors.

Northern California Men's Division II: San Jose Seahawks vs. San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG) D2:
In another rematch of a regular season fixture, the San Jose Seahawks will host SFGG's D2 side in the Northern California Division II Championship match. The Seahawks finished the season in first place on the table after going undefeated, and the only blemish on their record was a 46-46 draw with Sacramento Blackhawks. San Jose avoided a rematch with the Blackhawks courtesy of SFGG D2 coming out on top of the Blackhawks last weekend. However, the Seahawks won't be too relieved about their new opponent, as they were only able to narrowly escape SFGG D2 the last time these two played. On that occasion, the Seahawks squeezed by SFGG, 24-17. This game is shaping up to be as tight of an affair as the last. The keys to success for the minor premiers will be their outside center and full back Richard Weber and Michael Mitchell, respectively. These two have combined for twenty-three tries this season, with Weber scoring thirteen of them. Mitchell has been lethal with his boot slotting thirty-three conversions and sixteen penalty goals, on top of his ten tries this season. If SFGG D2 are going to have a change in fortune it will start and end with shutting these two down. 


Mid-Atlantic Men's Division I: Norfolk Blues vs. Rocky Gorge Rugby:
It's the final week for the top division of men's play in the Mid-Atlantic, and everything is up for grabs as the first placed Rocky Gorge travels to take on the second placed Norfolk Blues. These two met earlier in the season and then it was a case of home ground advantage helping Rocky Gorge get over the line, 21-17. But now, with only two competition points separating the two teams, it is likely that the victor will take the spoils. The Blues and Rocky Gorge are about as evenly matched as two teams can be as their respective point differentials are only twenty three points apart. This promises to be a tightly fought and highly entertaining affair.


Empire Men's Division III: Buffalo Rugby D3 vs. Danbury Mad Haters:
As the Empire Geographic Union enters their semifinals teams have separated themselves and we are left with the best of the best. The Buffalo D3, Mad Hatters game is proof of this. Both teams were in scintillating form last weekend. Danbury blew through North Jersey beating them 80-21, while Buffalo were able to beat their neighbors, Rochester Colonials, 42-30.  Both teams have insanely strong attacking abilities with Buffalo only denied from scoring four tries once this season, and Danbury scoring over 45 points in every game they've played this year. If you like tries being scored this will be the game