The Pressure is Rising for Teams in This Week’s Six Pack

As club rugby continues to descend further and further into its playoff season, there can be little surprise that five of the six games this weekend are playoff fixtures. This week’s edition will include games from the Mid-Atlantic, Atlantic North, the Pacific South, and a top of the table matchup in Major League Rugby as teams all continue to jockey for a position in the National Playoffs.

Pacific South Men's Division III: Beaumont Bluehawks vs. Orange County Ravens:
This weekend's feature will see the two best teams in Pacific South Division III play, as the Beaumont Bluehawks face the Orange County Ravens in the championship match. These two teams are no strangers to one another having faced each other during the regular season. Back when these two teams met earlier it was Beaumont who came away victorious to the tune of a, 34-14 score line. Despite the convincing win, and the Ravens looking for revenge, Bill Pendley, the Bluehawks Coach, is not too concerned about the extenuating circumstances and to him it's business as usual. "We prepare for the game by working to make our weaknesses stronger and our strengths even better," Pendley noted.

Throughout the course of the season a lot can change for a team and a team that you faced early in the season could look completely different just a month or two later. For Pendley's men they've been fortunate to have a consistent roster this season, but the Ravens have found some new life in their attack according to the Bluehawks coach; "We've had nearly the same lineup all year and the boys are starting to gel so no plans to change that formula. We have added some depth in our subs for the playoffs and that has helped in the second half.  Obviously, the ravens have had different looks in their lineup over the last month. They have some players back from injury now and I expect them to always use their runners outside in attack."

These two teams playing a contrasting fashion of rugby. For the Ravens, they play an expansive and explosive style of play; alternatively, the Bluehawks play a tighter game and challenge their opponents physically. Pendley commenting, "Our style is more pack oriented this season as we have some good horses there. Our big boys favor the contact and we have been obliging them... We need to minimize our mistakes and keep the game physical... Possession is also key for us. The ravens have been a backline team for many years as many of them compete at the qualifier level in 7's. I expect them to push the ball to their backs often." 

The winner of this game will likely come down to which team is more successful in luring the other into their style of play and causing fractures in the other's game plan


Atlantic North Women's Playoffs: Albany Knickerbockers vs. Village Lions:
In the Atlantic North, the women's playoffs kick off with an exciting matchup between two prominent New York teams. Both of these teams enjoyed successful regular seasons, with each team notching up five wins. For the Lions, they're only hiccup during the regular season was a loss to their divisional rivals Monmouth. For Albany, while they did incur two losses, they were still able to finish on top of their pool. The Lions will be looking to their outside center and captain, Megan Banford's scoring ability, and the accuracy of Hailey Billitier's boot to carry them through. For Albany, their difference maker has been Catherine Lowerre, who has raking in the points through her multifaceted game. This match appears to be an evenly matched one and should provide the winner with a good taste of what the rest of the playoffs will be like.


Pacific South Women's Division II: Old Pueblo Lightening vs. Las Vegas Slots:
Two divisional rivals will square off this weekend in the Pacific South Women's Division II Championship as the Old Pueblo Lightening, host the Las Vegas Slots. These two have met once before, in March, and on that occasion, it was the Lightening that came away with the win. This was the only blemish on the Slots' record against another Division II opponent this year. The Slots will have their hands full defensively this weekend as they try to stop the lethal attack of the Lightening. Old Pueblo has had three players score three tries, another three have scored four, however, this all pales in comparison to their outside center, Jessica Szakacs who has scored thirteen tries on the season. The Slots in comparison have a tie for their top try scorers at four. Look for the Slots to try and keep the ball up front and draw the Lightening into a game of attrition.


New England Men's Division III: Boston Maccabi vs. Charles River Rats:
A championship match some may not have predicted  will feature Boston Maccabi hosting the Charles River Rats. The reason it could have surprised people was the River Rats, pulled off a massive upset last weekend. Thanks to a penalty goal being kicked as time expired they beat the undefeated, and regular season champions, Providence. While Boston Maccabi enjoyed a successful season, with their only loss against Providence, they won't be taking anything for granted this round, especially after seeing the results from last weekend. For the hosts, as they have done all year, they will look to their fly-half, William Shipps, to direct traffic for them and to generate the go forward. Shipps has contributed over 100 points to his team this season and will look to add to his tally this weekend. For the River Rats look for their prop, Michael Kierman, to lead the charge by soaking up some defenders as they charge forward. When these two last met Maccabi won 44-12, expect this fixture to be much closer.


Mid-Atlantic Men's Division II: Raleigh Vipers vs. Lancaster Roses:
Two Mid-Atlantic teams will meet for the first time this weekend when the Lancaster Roses, host the Raleigh Vipers. Both teams had successful regular seasons with each team only losing to one team, in the case of the Vipers it was to the same team twice. The Roses' weapon comes in the form of their fullback, Caesar Da Fonesca, who has crossed over eleven times this season. For the Vipers, they do not have a singular player, rather they have success using all facets of the game to get over their opposition's line. With these two facing each other for the first time this year, it could turn into a contest of who can figure the other out first.

Major League Rugby: Seattle Seawolves vs. Glendale Raptors:

Only into the second weekend of the Major League Rugby (MLR), fans can be treated to an early preview of what could be the Championship Match. The Glendale Raptors, will travel up north to Seattle and take on the Seawolves. Glendale played a dominating game against Austin Elite last weekend, beating them, 41-26, but were hampered late by two red cards. Seattle caught many pundits off guard by defeating the San Diego Legion, 39-23, last weekend. Glendale travelling with two men suspended could prove to be the difference in what is shaping up to be an exciting game.