Austin Blacks D3 to Fight Long Island in first National Championship bid

Two high powered offenses collide in the Men’s Division III Championship match, as Long Island and Austin Blacks D3 both look to win their first national title.

Two high powered offenses collide in the Men's Division III Championship match, as Long Island and Austin Blacks D3 both look to win their first national title. These two are evenly matched and almost impossible to separate. Austin has played 14 games this season and are undefeated. Long Island has played 13 games this season and is undefeated. Austin have an average winning margin of 40 points. Long Island have an average winning margin of 41 points. This means two things, expect to see a lot of points scored, and it's going to be an intensely fought championship.

The Men's Division III Championship will be played at 12pm MDT on June 3rd at Infinity Park and will be available to watch live via FloRugby.

The Austin Blacks D3 side have been enjoying a run of success this year, a culmination of several years knocking on the door, and as a result are the first D3 side of a club to reach the National Championship. The difference this year, according to their own Ryan Little, has been the schemes put into place by their coaches, "I really think that the attacking and defensive systems that have been put in place by our coaches Tane (Jericevich) and Stevie (Swindall) has kept us undefeated despite numerous roster changes. It allows us to use multiple players throughout the season without a massive drop off." Another large part of their success has been the experience handed down from their first side. Little also notes that gaining players, as a result of "natural progression for aging athletes" from their 2015 and 2016 D1 sides that made it to the National Championship, has been invaluable to the third side.

Long Island has one of, if not the most, impressive seasons of any team participating this weekend. Last year they finished at the bottom of Empire's Division II, after being bumped down to Division III they have sprung back into prominence and enjoyed a complete reversal, pushing for their case to rejoin Division II. They have gone from a two-win season to a fourteen-win season, a record that no one could have foreseen. Their change in fortune, according to head coach Jerry Mirro, is due to their ability to stay healthy, and a complete commitment to the cause. "We have been fortunate to have incurred only 1 or 2 serious season ending injuries, and our participation numbers have steadily increased the past year and a half. Along with that total team commitment from day 1 last fall 2017 to commit to make practice and work to the end goal of having the opportunity to play for the National Championship," Mirro explained, while also crediting Jim McGeady for his ability to market the team so successfully.

This game should be played in a wide-open manner, with both teams priding themselves on their ability to play the game up-tempo and an ability to score at any given moment. Little expanding, "I like to play an attacking style of play both offensively and defensively... Putting pressure on the other team causing them to make mistakes." Mirro mirrored Little's answer by mentioning, "We are extremely diversified, we can attack from anywhere at any time...we are fit, athletic and well versed in our structure. Our backs are all good ball handlers...we sync together very well backs and forwards. We play off each other as situations call for."

Championship matches, are meant to be close and tight affairs, this game looks as though it will be just that. In games that go down to the wire, it is often the small things that separate a team from jubilation or despair, and both coaches know fundamentals will be what sway this game. Little notes that when it comes to the keys to success, it's pretty basic, "it will come down to good one to one tackling and playing smarter. Penalties and mistakes are the difference in big games." Mirro, while finding different areas to focus on, admitted it will be a game of execution, "The key to the game is structure and continuity. Limit mistakes and ball possession. It can be that simple. Rugby is a simple game that we like to over think."