Rematches Pave the Way For this Week's Saturday 6-Pack

This weekend, with many teams returning to the pitch after enjoying last weekend off, the 6-pack is filled to the brim with quality matches throughout the country. Five of the six games this weekend are repeat fixtures, and three of the previous matches were won or lost in the final minute of the game. With this weekend being so close to the end of the regular season for many teams, there will be added importance to these matches.

Mid Atlantic Men's Division III North: Wilkes Barre Breakers v. Northeast Philadelphia Irish
In a rematch of a September fixture, Northeast Philadelphia will be looking to make amends for letting the game from their hands after Wilkes-Barre scored as time expired.  The result hasn't sat well with those from Northeast Philadelphia, and this weekend's rematch couldn't come quick enough. "Ever since the whistle blew to end that game there has been a sour taste in all of our guys mouths to get back that win... Our motivation this weekend is that we are ready for a playoff run and Wilkes Barre stands in our way of that pursuit. The guys have been training all off season to get better, faster, and stronger and we know we are ready to go into battle this weekend," noted Northeast Philadelphia's head coach, Tim Morris.

Morris knows that this game won't be easy and that they will have to take every opportunity afforded to them, as they will be rare. "Wilkes Barre..., they are a great team and a great group of men...every opportunity to score is highly valuable and you can't take it for granted. When we are presented with an opportunity to score on penalties we need to capitalize on them because later on in the game those points can and will be the deciding factor," Morris added. Scoring points has never been an issue for either team, as they both possess prolific scorers, but they both have tough defenses, which - when combined with conditions they will face on the weekend - will make every point worth its weight in gold.

What adds extra spice to this matchup is that only the winner of this game is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Northeast Philadelphia has taken the approach that given the gravitas of this game, for them at least, it's an elimination match. "It's a playoff game because it pretty much is. The only way to guarantee a playoff appearance is to go out and win and we are using that as our drive to stay focused and train. I would be lying if I told you it's not in the back of everyone's mind but I think that is a good thing. Its lingering motivation that every second you have leading up to this game is a time to improve," Morris explained.  

While they were not in the playoffs last year, or even in a spot to compete for a birth, they have learned some important lessons about high pressure games. "[Last year] we lost 3 games by a combined total of 7 or 8 points. We had some real disappointing loses in games that were completely winnable. We were 8 points away from being at the top of the division but it all came down to bad penalties and poor execution... Our last game against Reading we were down 3 tries with 10 minutes to go, last year we would of never won that game, but this year we just stepped up even more, relied on our teammates and kept fighting and we ended up winning on a last second try," Morris elaborated.

It is clear that this weekend will be a big one for both teams and that points will be at a premium. What will likely sway this game is which team is able to last the full eighty minutes without making unforced errors.

Pacific South Men's Division II Group B: San Diego Old Aztecs v. Oceanside Chiefs:
The Old Aztecs will host the Chiefs in another top-of-the-table rematch that was previously decided in the waning moments of their fixture. Last time it was the Old Aztecs who came out on top, 19-17, after their fly half, Tim Howard, was able to convert Will Dow's try. Oceanside will now travel to San Diego to exact revenge. They will be looking for their hard-running number eight Lewis Tuiavii to continue crossing the line, as he has done all season. The Old Aztecs, meanwhile, will be leaning on their fullback, James Niblock, who has been a thorn in his opponents scoring seven tries in the season. Both teams have a record of 6-1 with 31 competition points. There are only three weeks left in the season for both teams, so this game will provide them with a much-needed opportunity to create separation.

 

Rocky Mountain Men's Division II: Denver Barbarians v. Park City Haggis:
Another rematch this weekend featuring teams that fought to the bitter end sees Park City Haggis travel over 500 miles to take on the Denver Barbarians. The Barbarians, who are in first place in the standings, won the previous encounter, 26-24. It came down to the 79th minute when Denver's fly-half, Charles Ajarrista worked some magic, crossed the line, and brought the scores level. He then slotted the conversion to let the Barbarians claim the victory and leave the Haggis with a pit in their stomach. Park City hopes to avoid a repeat of such heartache this weekend, and it will be crucial for them to land the victory if they are to keep pace with the Barbarians. While the Haggis are in second place, there is a chasm between the two in terms of competition points, and Park City is fighting off the Denver Highlanders and Boulder Rugby to retain hold of second. To that end, this weekend's result may go a long way towards deciding Park City's final place. Interestingly enough, both clubs are former national champions, as Park City won the Men's Division II National Championship in 2005, while Denver has claimed national championships in both 1990 (Men's Division I) and 1999 (Rugby Super League).

Carolinas-Georgia Women's Division II: Atlanta Harlequins D2 v. Augusta Furies:
This top-of-the-table clash pits the undefeated Atlanta Harlequins D2 against the Augusta Furies. The Furies' only blemish on their record this seaon came at the hands of their opponents this week. When these two teams met for the first time back in November, it was the Harlequins that handed the Furies a beat-down that they would not forget in a hurry, 45-10. The Furies are certainly up to the task, however, winning the league the past two seasons, and also having a deep run to the National Semi-Finals in 2015. This weekend they'll be looking for redemption, and what better way of getting redemption than by knocking them out of a playoff position. This weekend will be the final weekend of regular season play for these two teams, and with the teams being separated by only two competition points, it looks as if it will be winner takes all.

Pacific Northwest Women's Division II: Eugene Reign v. Emerald City Mudhens:
It's second playing third in this women's encounter in the Pacific Northwest. Both teams currently sit within striking distance of the first-place Bend Lady Roughriders, and with this being each team's last game it will make the outcome that much more crucial for their playoff hopes. While these two teams only sit four competition points away from each other, the Mudhens have been a lot more dominant than their opposition. On the season, the Mudhens have a point differential of nearly 200 points greater than the Reign. While this will be a road game for the Mudhens, the Regin shouldn't rest on home field advantage to carry them through, as Emerald City has been perfect away from home this year.

Samurai Sportswear Pacific Rugby Premiership: Life West Gladiators v. San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG):
The final match of the weekend is also a return leg. In this installment Life West will be looking to give SFGG a taste of their own medicine and send them marching back home with a defeat. It should be an evenly-fought game, with these two right next to each other on the ladder. Last time out it was SFGG who was able to land the eight-point victory, robbing Life West of a losing bonus point. SFGG needs this win vitally as they are within striking distance of first place, but after a few close matches not going in their favor, including a tie with Belmont Shore, it is looking like anything but a win this weekend may ruin any hope of lifting the silverware in May and June.