Club Rugby Saturday Six Pack: Perfect Records Will Come to an End

Six massive games that, despite being early in the year, will all have major implications on each team's chances for post season glory. With so much on the line you can expect some riveting matches.

American Rugby Premiership: Life Running Eagles vs. Old Blue of New York:

When the Life Running Eagles and Old Blue of New York meet this weekend, only one will leave with their perfect record intact. Both teams have started their American Rugby Premiership (ARP) campaigns impressively, each sitting at 2-0. Life has had a daunting schedule to begin, travelling from Georgia, to the Northeast in consecutive weeks. Despite the disadvantage of extreme travel schedules, including flight delays on both trips, the Running Eagles have managed to snag bonus point wins in both their games. Old Blue, comparatively, have had an easier travel schedule but have still played two talented teams. This weekend Old Blue will be tested when they become the first team this year to travel down to Georgia.

For Old Blue, facing an opposition of the Running Eagles' caliber is amplified when they are traveling and playing on the same day. Old Blue's coach, Gideon Lensing concedes it will be a challenge but believe his squad has the maturity and experience to overcome the difficulties associated with it. "I Don't know how many are used to this type of travel, having to fly and play on the same day, but we just have to play it as it comes. It comes down to us being 100% focused when we get to the game."

Focus and maturity have been key ingredients to Old Blue's recipe for early success. Lensing focused on the big-name players on his side, and how they have been able to boost those around them. "We've got a good group of guys. We were fortunate to get senior guys back to lift the standard of play. Dominic [Wareing] and his work with the 7s team over the summer has helped the backline and loose forwards abilities."

Life is aware of Old Blue's potential. However, head coach for the Running Eagles, Blake Bradford has a solid understanding of what it will take. "They're a very good team, with good ball handling, fast tempo and they can put you under pressure. We are expecting a bit of everything... The big thing for us is going to be our defense. We'll need to sustain pressure by creating good defensive connection, work off the ball and get double tackles, and keep them from getting to the gain line."

Defense can only get you so far, Life will need to find a way to keep the scoreboard ticking over to help create the pressure Bradford spoke about. So far, this season, that has not been an issue for the Running Eagles. They have been scoring points at will against their opponents, especially in the opening stages of their games. However, they have been susceptible to letting teams back into the games. Bradford is aware of this tendency and believes they are on the right track to fixing it. "We've worked hard on being able to play for long periods of time. Training the guys on fatigue and decision making while tired. We've been making the defense work on our structures."

With both teams demonstrating an ability to attack and defend to a high degree, they both know in order to win the game they will have to gain advantage anywhere they can. That area, seemingly, appears to be the set-piece. Bradford and Lensing both insinuating a key component to their chances will lie heavily in their ability to dictate the set-piece.

"Set-piece will be important for us," started Lensing. "It looks like their back three are very dangerous. They look like a well-balanced side, we will have to play well but there will be opportunities for us... I expect Cam [Dolan] and Dylan [Fawsitt] to help us win the set-pieces."

Bradford noted, similarly, Life's set-piece will be ciritical in the execution of their game plan, which focuses on slowing down the high-speed tempo of Old Blue. "We're looking for an improved performance in our set-pieces. Big thing for us is going to be our defense Sustaining pressure and set-pieces will get us success."

Both play an exciting brand of rugby and possess plenty of star power in their squads. It will be tight game, and given the fact three of the last four national champions have come from this competition, don't be surprised if the winner of this game goes on to big things in May 2019.  

Midwest Women's Division II: Columbus Rugby vs. Cincinnati Kelts:

Two of the preeminent women's teams in the country square off this weekend for the first of two meetings this year. Columbus Rugby and the Cincinnati Kelts have a rich and storied rivalry and last year might have reached its greatest heights. In 2017-18 Columbus Rugby took won the competition going undefeated during league play, but it was the Kelts who won the Midwest Playoffs, advancing through to the national playoffs. Both teams have started their seasons off with impressive performances, scoring over 100 points in their Week 1 victories. For Columbus, they beat the Indianapolis Hoydens, 111-7; and for the Cincinnati Kelts, they beat Circle City Tempests, 117-0. It looks like it will be another year of the Kelts and Columbus duking it out for the top spot, all that remains to be seen now is who will win it all.

Frontier Men's Division III: Northern Colorado Flamingos vs. Laramie Lumberjacks: 

While it is still early in the season, it already appears as though the Northern Colorado Flamingos have turned the fortunes of their club around. In 2016-17 the Flamingos went 1-8 registering only six competition points, last year saw a tremendous spike to 5-7; but they were still unable to reach a .500 record. They kicked 2018-19 off with a statement victory against last year's champions, the Colorado Springs Grizzlies. It is too be early to crown any success for the year, but they continue to trend upwards and show significant growth as a club. When they take on the Laramie Lumberjacks this weekend, it could give a glimpse into how far this team, with their ethos and commitment, could go this year.

Mid-Atlantic Women's Division II: Harrisburg Rugby vs. Doylestown Dragons:

First and Second from last year are once again sitting atop the Mid-Atlantic Women's Division II ladder this season; however, they have swapped positions. Doylestown, last year's winner is now sitting in second behind 2017-18's runner-up, Harrisburg Rugby. It is shaping up to be an exciting game, with both teams fresh into their season. Yet to face a real challenge, this game will be a solid yard stick to measure how the rest of the season may play out. The Dragons were led, in their only game of the season thus far, by Jaime Malarchik who scored three tries in the one outing. For Harrisburg it has been Emily McHenry leading the charge. McHenry has crossed for four tries in two games already. Both teams will be desperate for the win. It will be nip and tuck for the full eighty.

Atlantic North Men's Division II: Union County Mudturtles vs. Morris Rugby:

In the Empire Men's Division II- New Jersey pool there have been two surprises to start the year. The first is the team currently atop the standings, the Union County Mudturtles. After going 4-4 last year, they have started 2018-19 off at a blistering pace. In just three games, the Mudturtles have scored 140 points. The second surprise has been the relatively sluggish start of last year's pool winner, Morris Rugby. In 2017-18 Morris only lost one game and it didn't happen until October. After losing in the opening round they have ground to make up. This weekend these two will face each other, providing insight as to whether or not Morris is missing a step, or whether the Mudturtles are legitimate contenders this year. It promises to be a captivating affair.

Midwest Men's Division III: Louisville Rugby vs. Lexington Blackstones:

It's battle for the Bluegrass state, as Louisville welcomes in the Lexington Blackstones. This interstate rivalry has been spiced up a bit this year, with both teams starting their seasons out perfectly taking the maximum 15 competition points away from their first three games. Louisville, who finished second last year in the division has been ripping and tearing through the competition this year. Their average margin of victory has been 54 points and they have not conceded any points for 160 minutes. Their opponents on Saturday, The Blackstones, still fresh into the season have already matched their total wins from last season. Winning only 3 games last year, the Blackstones have seen a renaissance within their program this season. They have shown a proficiency at scoring points but their defense at times can be deficient, letting in an average of 21 points a game. If they are going to get the win away from home, they'll have to tighten their defensive screws.