It’s Business Time: Saturday’s Six Pack is Swept Up in Playoff Fever

This weekend’s club six pack is a playoff bonanza, as all six games featured are playoff fixtures. There are games covering the Frontier, Mid-Atlantic, Pacific South, Atlantic North and Red River Regions, as teams fight for a spot in the National Quarterfinals in Dallas and Obetz.

Frontier Region Men's Division II Championship: Denver Barbarians vs. Saint Louis Royals:
In a battle of undefeated teams, the Denver Barbarians will host the Saint Louis Royals, both teams have been rampant in their respective competitions this year. The Barbarians won all ten of their regular season games, and their playoff match last weekend to go an impressive 11-0, racking up an average winning margin of forty-five points in the proccess. Not to be out done the Royals went 8-0 through their season and enjoyed an average winning margin of thirty points. Needless to say, expect some fireworks in this game.

Neither team is getting caught up in the other's record and is approaching this weekend as if it were just any other game. The Barbarians president, Logan Collins, noted, "We'll prepare the same way we have all season. We've been fine tuning our attacking and defensive structures in recent weeks so we feel ready to make our push into playoffs." While director of rugby operations for the Royals, Steve McKinstry spoke for their head coach, Brian Moylett when he said in an almost carbon copy manner, "We have spent the time preparing as we would for any game, focusing on our strengths and fine tuning the small things."

Both teams enjoy playing a balanced style of play keeping the game physical up front in the pack, but also allowing the backs to get creative when the opportunities present themselves. These two teams have never played each other, but they both know that they will be in for an arm wrestle. For the Royals, this is their first year in Division II after winning the national Division III title last year, so the Barbarians know to expect a tough match, Collins explaining, "We expect a fast and athletic team. They have been successful in their region this year so we can expect them to be well drilled without any holes in their game." McKinstry offered a similar diagnosis of his opponents this weekend, "We know them to be a high-quality team who won't make mistakes and expect a very difficult game."

For the Barbarians, they will be looking for their defense to be the signpost of their performance this weekend, while for the Royals they will be looking to their fundamentals to carry them through to a victory. Denver's focus on defense comes from an understanding of their opponents, but also faith in their offense being able to operate on all cylinders. "Defense. Our offense will take care of itself but an 80-minute defensive performance will win the game for us," Collins explained. For the Royals, their dedication to the fundamentals of the game comes from a healthy respect that they have towards their opposition's ability to counter attack. "The keys will be playing to our strengths and continuing to execute our game plan under pressure.  Everyone will need to keep a cool head and do the job they know regardless of the situation." McKinstry elaborated.

Both teams will be focused on their game plan and playing within it. While they are known for their ability to score and pile on points in a hurry, they both know that in order for them to be successful and advance to Ohio, they will need to stay calm and not remember that Rome wasn't built in a day.


Mid-Atlantic Women's D1 Semi-Final: Northern Virginia Rugby vs. Raleigh Venom
It's a rematch of last year's D1 National Semi-Final; these teams are well-known to each other, and there is no love lost between the two of them. NOVA and the Venom have already faced off twice this year, splitting the series. On the first occasion it was the Venom who walked away victorious 19-12, while the second match went in favor of NOVA who won, 21-0. These two teams have been warming themselves up in the Gold Cup throughout the Spring and have enjoyed a great deal of success. The Venom and Nova are almost impossible to separate as they both have 3-3 records in league play and their for and against is within four points of each other's. This will be a tightly contested match leading up to what will be a tough battle against Philadelphia Rugby next weekend.

Samurai Sportswear Pacific Rugby Premiership Final: Old Mission Beach Athletic (OMBAC) vs. Belmont Shore Rugby
Two of the most storied clubs in USA Rugby go head to head this weekend to determine who will be the winner of the PRP. Belmont Shore had a stranglehold on the competition for much of its duration, running up a seven-game winning streak to open the season. However, their fortunes changed in week eight and they went on a two-game losing skid, they were able to pick up a win in the final round of the competition to regain some momentum, and prove that they are still the team to beat. For OMBAC it came down to the waning moments of their game last weekend before they knew whether or not they'd be in the final, and now that they are, they'll be up against their biggest SoCal rival. Between the two of these teams they have won 21 national championships, and have been in 33 championship finals.  With that being said there is every chance that the winner of this match could be adding some silverware to their cupboard come the first weekend of June.

Atlantic North Women's Division II Championship: Hartford Wild Roses vs. Providence Rugby
There has been a hunger within the belly of Providence Rugby for the past twelve months, as they have had to wait for another shot at glory, after falling just short in the semifinals last year to the eventual champion Milwaukee Scylla. This year they have been out on a mission to reach the national stage once more and to make sure they don't leave empty handed. They have won all of their games against Division II opponents this year, and their only losses came against the Atlantic North Division I finalists. Hartford on the other hand have gone undefeated in their competition, but have suffered one loss. That loss came against Providence back in November. On that occasion Providence, romped home to a 45-7 victory. This weekend will prove to be an interesting test for Hartford, and will show just how far they've been able to come in the past 6 months.   

Red River Men's Division III Semi-Final: Galveston Rugby vs. Alliance Rugby
Galveston, who is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, has had a renaissance season. They have completely turned the tables from last year and after going 2-8 last year, they've struck back to come out with a 7-1 season this year. Their opponent this weekend is Alliance Rugby who have also enjoyed a fruitful campaign. The men from North Texas have been able to compile an impressive 7-1 record, and will look to make the quarterfinals in two weeks' time so that they can play a national quarterfinal in front of their hometown crowd. Alliance has had a stingy defense all year as they have conceded less than 100 total points over the duration of the season. They will need their defense to be on song this weekend as they face a team in Galveston that is more than capable of putting big scores on their opposition. This game should ultimately come down to whichever team is more successful at establishing their attacking patterns and tempo.

Mid-Atlantic Men's Division I Championship: Norfolk Blues vs. Rocky Gorge Rugby
Third time is the charm for these two teams as they lock horns for the once again this season. However, this time it's all on the line as they will be playing for a spot in the national quarterfinals. Throughout the series so far, this year the two teams have been separated by one point. In the first game, it was Rocky Gorge who won at home, 21-17 on the return leg they fell at Norfolk 39-34. This game will likely come down to the last five minutes and do not be surprised if at the end of the game discipline will be the determining factor.  Any jubilation felt by the winner will be well earned but the hard work will have only just begun, because they will be up against the 2016 Division I National Champions, Mystic River in two weeks time.