Club Rugby Saturday Six Pack: Rematches Offer Shot at Redemption

Between the WPL Championships, the Elite Cup and all of the games going on around the country this weekend, there is no shortage of quality matches on display across all divisions.

Mid-Atlantic Men's Division IV: Washington Renegades D4 vs. Prince William County Rugby:

The featured match this weekend will see a vitally important battle for positioning in the Men's Mid-Atlantic Division IV competition, as the Washington Renegades D4 side welcome Prince William County Rugby into their abode.

Entering this weekend, Renegades D4 are sitting atop the division with a perfect 3-0 record and 15 competition points. Below them, in fifth, is Prince William County, at 2-1 and on 10 points. While, this does not immediately jump out as a pivotal matchup, it becomes one when analyzing the standings. The teams that currently occupy the second, third, and fourth position on the ladder are all within an arm's length of the first spot of the ladder; but, they have also played one more game than the Renegades or Prince William. If Prince William get the win this weekend, they would then essentially create a five-way race, for the title. That is exactly what they intend to do according to head coach, Vincent Nitopi.  

"It's our absolute focus to win this weekend," began Nitopi. "We want to keep momentum going into the Spring and keep pace with the Renegades. It was our goal coming into the season to make it into the championship at the end of the season. So, winning this game is super important."

To win this game it will take a monumental effort from Prince William, as the Renegades D4 have dominated both sides of the ball. In three games, they have scored over 200 points and only let in five. However, Nitopi knows that his players will be up to the challenge. "They're defense looks to be ridiculously good, they've only let in five points all season," exclaimed Nitopi. "We're going to prepare to face the toughest defense we've seen all season."

As the old adage goes, the best defense is a good offense. However, this weekend for Prince William, a good defense is the best offense. Nitopi kept his cards close to his chest, but did reveal some key points to their strategy. "We're going to be executing the stuff we've been working on all season. We're just going to try and play better defense than they do and hopefully it forces some errors, which we can capitalize on."

The Renegades are a big club, and as a result have a wealth of depth. This is one of the biggest issues Prince William faces this weekend, as they can't pin point one man they need to shut down. Everybody on the Renegades roster is capable of cracking the game wide open. When asked about who they'd look to shut down, Nitopi replied, "Not anybody in particular. They're a well coached and big side. They've got quite a pool, from top to bottom. You've got to watch out for everybody."

While they may not be focusing on anybody from the Renegades squad, they will be looking internally for a few players to offer leadership and help get the game plan's wheels in motion. "We're going to look to a couple of guys to provide leadership. The first is our captain this weekend, Joris Van der Ham. Another we'll look to is Bobby Kilng, who is stepping in at flyhalf."

At the end of the game, for Prince William, it's going to come down to how well they can execute within their structures. They have a lot of faith in their ability to pull them through in tight scenarios, Nitopi noting, "If we run our game plan, I'm very confident in what we can do." It seems like a simple recipe for success, but they'll be the first to tell you it's going to be easier said than done.

Empire Men's Division III New York City: Brooklyn Rugby vs. Gotham Knights:

In the third division of Empire play, there is a top of the table clash this weekend. It's between the top placed, Brooklyn Rugby and second placed Gotham Knights. This is not the first time that these two have met this year, on the first occasion it was a lop-sided victory for the Gotham Knights, 47-22. Since then Brooklyn have won two in a row, outscoring their opponents 144-7. In this resurgence, they have been carried by their inside center Phil Pepe, who has scored a total of nine tries on the season. Gotham, on the other hand, have only played one other game, which they won against New York Rugby, 33-15. Carrying the torch for them on the weekend will be their number eight Philip Constantinou, who has scored seven tries for the Knights. With time running out in the season, a win here will be crucial to establishing a foothold in the playoffs come the Spring.

New England Women's Division II: Portland Rugby vs. Providence Rugby:

When Providence make the trip up to Portland, Maine this weekend, it will be the first of their two games in back to back weeks against teams placed ahead of them in the standings. Portland is currently occupying the first place in the New England Women's Division II competition, while Providence is in third. If Portland wins they will be as much as ten points clear of Providence, and could be 8 points clear of second placed Worcester, depending on their result. Meaning that win here could potentially seal their place as divisional champions. If they are able to accomplish this feat, it would cap what has been a remarkable turnaround. Last year Portland only mustered up one win and finished last in their division. On Saturday, they have a chance to record their seventh win of the year, and complete the transformation from worst to first.

Midwest Men's Division II: Wisconsin Rugby vs. Indianapolis Impalas:

In a defacto championship match, the 6-0-1 Wisconsin Rugby will take on the 5-2-0 Indianapolis Impalas, for the divisional crown. Both teams suffered from slow starts early in the season, but have come storming back to look like world beaters this season. Wisconsin started the season off with a tie against the Eastside Banshees, who now sit at 3-4-1. Since then Wisconsin has not dropped a game and have gone from strength to strength. They may have met their match this weekend when they face the Impalas. Indianapolis kicked their season off with a 2-2 start, but with three dominating performances in a row, they find themselves in a perfect position to wrestle the mantle away from Wisconsin. With the two teams separated by a point differential of three, if Wisconsin can secure a draw or a victory they will be champions; while anything short of a win for the Impalas will spell second place in the division.  

Midwest Women's Division II West Gold: Chicago Sirens vs. Grand Rapids Rugby:

The Chicago Sirens and Grand Rapids are two teams who have been setting their division alight in 2018, and as they face each other in their final match of the regular season, it is all there to play for. The two met earlier in the season, and on that occasion, it was Grand Rapids that were able to pull out the hard-fought win, 12-10. The game was in stark contrast to every other game they've played this year. Both teams have a propensity to score in large quantities, while being incredibly stingy on defense. The Sirens will be led by their electrifying winger, Jessica Stabenow whose ability to find the line is second to none. For Grand Rapids, they will turn to their inside center, Stephanie Armstrong. Armstrong's ability to find and create space in the middle of the field, is part of what has helped her and her team separate themselves from the rest of the pack this season. The winner of this game will be the winner of the West Gold pool, and for Grand Rapids this could be the second year in a row they finish on top. For the Sirens, they will look to avoid last year's fate of finishing runners up.

Midwest Men's Division III East: Presque Isle Scallywags vs. Cleveland Crusaders D3:

The leaders of the Allegheny pool and the Ohio pool will meet this weekend, when Presque Isle Scallywags welcome the Cleveland Crusaders D3 side into Erie, Pennsylvania. Both teams are near mirror images of each other. Both teams are on 29 competition points and both have the same record of 6-1. However, on a deeper look, the Scallywags have been much more impressive on their way to the 6-1 record. They have accrued a point differential of over 150, while the Crusaders D3 have a smaller differential of 66. Cleveland's strength lies in their attack, having scored nigh on 250 points this year. However, their defensive efforts haven't matched and they've let in over 180 points. This is nearly twice as many points allowed by the Scallywags. Presque Isle seems to have both a potent attack and a stingy defense. This weekend will prove whether the Scallywags are really as strong as they appear on paper, or if it is a case of inflated stats. Either way it promises to be a riveting affair, with major implications.