Club Rugby Saturday Six Pack: Teams Eager to Finish on a High Before Winter Break

As teams creep closer and closer to the end of the fall season, they need to make the most of their remaining opportunities.

New England Men's Division III: Providence vs. North Shore:

It's a battle between two of the most dominant teams in New England this weekend, as the undefeated Providence Rugby welcomes the one loss North Shore Rugby to town. Both teams have a penchant for scoring and stingy defense. It promises to be a tightly contested match with the winner likely to gain the regular season title.

Providence has been one of the most dominant teams in all of Club Rugby over the past 18 months, as they have gone undefeated in their last 16 regular season games. Their only loss came in the opening round of last year's playoffs, when a last second kick snatched victory away from them. However, despite their dominance Providence still see themselves as the underdogs and they feel most of the league casts them in the same light. It is this constant underestimating that acts as their main source of inspiration.

"We are always looked at as the underdog," stated head coach Michael McGeachy. "People don't think we're as good as we really are. I'd prefer to be seen like that. I'd prefer people not give us the respect, then have them come up to us after the game and say we're sorry, you played a great game." It's hard to imagine that after going undefeated in regular season play teams are still underestimating Providence, but they know this weekend will be different.

North Shore and Providence have faced off twice in the last year, splitting the series 1-1. The first time Providence took the spoils as North Shore, according to providence, were guilty of underestimating them. However, on the second occasion it was reversed and it was Providence who misjudged the quality of North Shore. This weekend, North Shore will know what they need to do to get the job done, a prospect Providence may not have faced before.

For Providence, they are yet to be really challenged in the Fall of 2018, as they have won all of their games by at least 30 points. One of the reasons for this, according to McGeachy is the underdog tag they've been given. "A lot of that (the success) comes from being underestimated. We dropped down from Division II, where we only won two games in two seasons. People thought we wouldn't be able to recruit and it would just be some has beens. So that really lit a fire under us." That fire has resulted in an offense that scores 49 points a game, while conceding less than 10 points per contest.

While Providence may benefit from the luxury of being misjudged in their division, that is not the case for North Shore. North Shore has not won the league title recently, but in the last three seasons they have been hovering near the top of the table. Teams know it will always be a tough outing against North Shore and this year appears to be the first year they are firing on all cylinders. They sit at 6-1 on the season, with a single hiccup coming in their second game of the season; courtesy of a 2-point loss. Since then they have shown tremendous resilency winning close games and also proving their ability to blow teams out. Given their track record, if the game gets tight for any extended period of time, North Shore could have Providence right where they want them.

Looking forward to this weekend McGeachy is expecting another tough match and expects the inside center and outside center, James Sullivan and Jared Nicklas respectively, to be major threats. Referencing one of the fixtures they played last year, McGeachy noted, "Their inside and outside center attacked the space, ran at good angles, and played with a lot of heart... we'll be looking for them to pretty much do the same thing this weekend." From their own end though McGeachy is looking for a 15-man effort. "We're going to need the forwards to set the pace." However, he did single out a couple of players he expects to impact the game, "I'm expecting our number 10, Art (Santini) to have a big game, as well as our backrow. They've been doing really well in the loose making their tackles and providing support."

McGeachy was right to single out the centers as they have been doing a lot of damage throughout the season particularly Nicklas. The big outside center has been a force all year long scoring 12 tries on the season; while his neighbor, Sullivan, has bagged himself four. If North Shore can control the middle of the pitch and limit the impact of Providence's big men up front, they will have every chance of knocking them off.

This game will important for both teams as the wind up their fall seasons, but for Providence it is a chance to prove a point, as McGeachy made clear. "This would be huge for our momentum... If can show it was not just a fluke season and we're a strong capable team it would be huge for us. If we can beat a strong team like North Shore it will prove we've improved."

 

Empire Men's Division III Upstate: Genesee Creamers vs. Rochester Colonials:

One and two in the eastern pool of the Empire's Division III Upstate competition will face each other to close out their regular seasons, when the Rochester Colonials travel to take on the Genesee Creamers. The Colonials have been in strong form all season, going undefeated in the Eastern pool. Their two losses have been to the top teams in the Western Pool, Buffalo Rugby D3 and Kenton Misfits. The Creamers on the other hand, have shown glimpses of brilliance, but they have been too inconsistent. The danger men for both teams will be La'Ron White, for the Colonials and Joshua Mase, for the Creamers. White has scored ten tries on the year and Mase has scored seven. There is a direct coloration between their performances and their teams'. If Genesee or Rochester want to finish their Fall season on a high note, these two will be the keys to those aspirations.

Mid-Atlantic Men's Division III Central: Washington Renegades vs. North Bay Rugby:
 
The league leaders, Washington Renegades, will host the third placed North Bay Rugby in each teams' fall finale. The Renegades have been on a tear in 2018, going 5-1 and putting up some impressive numbers while doing so. In their six games, they have amassed a 118-point differential, which is more than thirty points higher than the nearest team. As circumstance would have it, the nearest team is their opponents this weekend, North Bay.  The men from Aberdeen have been contributing some pretty impressive numbers of their own this Fall. However, they have played one less game than their opponents and in spite of this they only sit six points behind them on the ladder. While a win, won't give them the top spot in the standings, it will give them a massive momentum boost heading into the winter and will provide a solid launching pad for their Spring assault.

 

Pacific Northwest Men's Division II: Oregon Sports Union vs. Eastside Tsunami:

In the Pacific Northwest, there is a three-horse race for first place in the Men's second division; however, on Saturday that could be cut down to two. Oregon Sports Union (ORSU) will face off against Eastside Tsunami, last year's champion. Although things have changed since last year. Eastside currently finds themselves in the second position five points behind league leaders, Boise United; while ORSU, trails by 11 points. This is the last game of the Fall for both teams, and ORSU desperately needs to pull out a win this weekend if they are to have any chance of competing for the division title. ORSU will have their work cut out for them, because other than their opening game loss, the Tsunami have been untouchable all year. They have scored at least 36 points in all their games since the initial loss, and have put up over 90 points on certain teams. ORSU has not experienced the same explosiveness as the Tsunami but have, with the exception of their one loss, scored at least 36 points in all their games. This promises to be an exhilarating game and the key to victory will likely come down to clinical execution and the ability to disrupt the other team's offensive patterns.

Mid-Atlantic Women's Division III South: Patuxent River Rugby vs. Maryland Stingers:

Maryland Stingers, the best team in the third division of women's play in the Mid-Atlantic, take the field this weekend when they travel to Patuxent River Rugby. It is the tale of two seasons for both of these teams. Maryland has been impossible to stop all year round, beating their opponents by a combined score of 134-34. They are yet to be tested and have, so far, proven to be a class above those in their division. For Patuxent, it hasn't been the fall they envisioned when they kicked their campaign off. They have gone 0-2-1, but with a win this weekend they could be on their way to turning themselves around for the Spring. They've shown moments of brilliance highlighted by their 17-17 draw with Northern Virginia D3, but those moments have been far and few between. Consistency will be their best chance of coming out of Saturday's fixture with a win. If they can string eighty minutes of stable play together, there is a chance they could be the first team to take down the Stingers.

Mid-America Men's Division II: Little Rock Stormers vs. Oklahoma City Crusaders:

The Little Rock Stormers look to continue their triumphant return to Division II rugby this fall when they take on the Oklahoma City Crusaders. The Stormers are 1-0 on the season, with their only game being played back in September. On that occasion, they were able to land a convincing, 78-14, win over their long-time rivals, Tulsa Rugby. This weekend they go up against the Oklahoma City Crusaders who currently hold a 1-1 record. The Crusaders are coming off a year in which they only won two games, however, they will see Saturday as the perfect opportunity to set themselves up for success in the Spring. If they are to do so they will need to find a way of shutting down Little Rock's William Hugh. Despite only being one game into the season, Hugh has already contributed 29 points to his team's cause, 24 of which came from his lethal boot. Discipline and playing territory will be the keys to any success the Crusaders are hoping for.