Club Rugby Saturday Six Pack: Teams Fight for Survival

With the Las Vegas Invitational drawing in many clubs from around the country, few fifteens games are being played; but that doesn't mean their aren't some gems on offer.

Georgia Men’s Division III: Augusta Maddogs vs. Savannah Shamrocks:

Over the past two seasons, the Augusta Maddogs and the Savannah Shamrocks have developed one of the fiercest rivalries in the South. This weekend another chapter in this captivating series shall be written. As the two teams enter the weekend, they do so with perfect records and for, in all likelihood, the right to home field advantage in the playoffs on the line.

Despite what is up for grabs, in this contest, neither team feels particularly stressed or worried about it. They do understand they are in for a real fight, but each side is confident in their ability to walk away with the win, after the final whistle is blown. “They’ve been one of the best teams in the south for four or five years now,” said Augusta Maddogs coach James Redmond. “We respect them, but we’re pretty confident in our plans.” Similarly, echoed by the Shamrocks coach, Matthew Midgett,  when reflecting on previous encounters, including extra time thrillers, they know the game will be long and physical. “We know we’ve got a long day ahead of us. They’re never easy to beat at home.”
While the coaches, and teams, feel confident in what to expect from each team, based off prior experience, this year will have a different feel or look to it. Each team has installed new attacking systems this season and both see this weekend as the perfect test to see what type of defense the new systems can keep up with.  Both teams have enjoyed successful seasons with their new systems, but the coaches know this will be their biggest test yet. According to the Shamrocks, they believe there is still some work to be done. “For us we need to stay in our pattern,” explained Midgett “We installed an entirely new attack pattern this year… it’s taken a few weeks to settle into. We’re really looking to perfect it this week.” The Maddogs have the same aspirations for this weekend. “Our players are pretty aggressive and have bought into our head coach Louis Taylor’s system. He’s come up with a solid attack pattern, they are executing it aggressively, which is great to see.”

The one thing both coaches know they will face over the weekend, is a physical encounter. Savanah recognizing the defensive and set piece strength of the Maddogs; while Augusta was able to appreciate the hard-nosed nature of their opponenets. Redmond noting the Shamrocks are “(a) Really physical team. They have high rugby IQ, distribute the ball well and they’ve got great athletes, they’re going to really be a challenge. They’re not just a finesse team they’re also a power team. They’re going to be a real challenge.” Midgett for his part knows his forwards must be at their best if they are to win the encounter. “They’ve always been very, very, good at tackling and their set pieces,” he explained.

The set piece and defense were two areas isolated by Redmond as a key area they need to dominate if they are to win on the weekend. “Defensive line speed and executing our set piece would be really good,” noted Redmond. For the Shamrocks it’s going to be about running the Maddogs raged, as their game plan is about playing the ball at speed. “We’ve got to test their fitness,” hinted the Midgett. “We try to play a very aggressive and fast paced offense that has the ball moving from the back of the ruck as quickly as possible.”

This game will be the tale of two teams, one that likes to play a tough, physical and bruising encounter; and another that doesn’t shy away from physicality, but also looks to spread the ball wide and let their speed on the outside edges do the talking. Both teams have a plethora of talented players, so the game shouldn’t come down to individual sparks of brilliance. Rather, it will come down to which team displays the most cohesiveness on both sides of the ball. Who ever sees the most fractures in their system will likely see the wrong side of the score line come full time.


Pacific Northwest Women’s Division II: Bend Lady Rough Riders vs. Chuckanut Bay Geoducks:

Playing their first game of 2019, will be the Bend Lady Roughriders and the Chuckanut Bay Geoducks. They are both be in dire need of a win in order to keep pace with league leading Emerald City Mudhens. The Roughriders sit in 2nd at 3-1; while the Geoducks sit in 4th at 2-2. The Geoducks started the year out in tremendous form going 2-0, but a late season slip saw them drop two in a row, including a tough loss against third placed Budd Bay Bandits. This game is a must win for them in order to keep playoff hopes alive. A loss here would put them eight points behind competition leaders and with one less game to play as well. For the Lady Roughriders, the situation is not quite as dire. Sitting at 3-1, if they can secure a win this weekend they will still be placed nicely for a push to the playoffs. Despite this, they will not want to be complacent, as the Budd Bay Bandits are nipping at their heels and a mistimed slip-up could derail their season’s hopes.


Florida Men’s Division III North: Sarasota Rugby vs. Bay Area Pelicans:

Pool leading, Bay Area Pelicans, take on third placed, Sarasota Rugby for the second time this season. In their first outing, it was all one way traffic to the Pelicans- as they recorded a 40-point victory. However, that game was played at home for the Pelicans and now they must travel to Sarasota, completely shifting the tide of the game. Sarasota is yet to lose a game at home this season and have proven to be a completely different side when playing away. They’ve won all three of their matches at home and lost every away game they’ve played. The Pelicans, while drawing confidence from their previous outing, will know they have a tough ask ahead of them, traveling to a formidable away location. If they can get the win away from home over the weekend, they’ll feel supremely confident in their chances to finish the year atop the north standings. Their main point of attack will be their backline. Between scrumhalf Calvin Eells and the centers combination of James Chandler and Jakobi Bradford, they are able to dominate their opposition and cause havoc through the pitch’s middle channels. Look for the centers to open the game up allowing Eells to dart from the base of the ruck once Sarasota grows weary in defense.


True South Women’s Division II: Knoxville Minx vs. Memphis Flamingos:

The Memphis Flamingos, in their second game of the season, will be looking for their first win of the year, when they take on the competition leading, Knoxville Minx. The Flamingos had a strong showing in their first game of the season, back in October, against the Nashville Stone Lions. While they did not win, they were able to hang 29 points up on the Stone Lions and they will need every bit of their offensive fire power this weekend against the Minx. The Minx average 50 points a game, in large part due to their cohesiveness. They are an incredibly well functioning machine, as all fifteen players on the field, contribute in various critical roles to ensure the success of the gameplan. They have an excellent forward pack, led by hooker Caitlin Molyneaux; and spectacular backline from the likes of Darcy Ayers and Katie Erb. It will be a tough ask to shut them down, but if the Flamingos are to advance to the post season, they will need to answer the call this round.


Northern California Men’s Division III-B: Mendocino Steam Donkeys vs. Marin Reds:

One of the best teams in Division III this year has been the Marin Reds. They currently sit in third place of the Division III-B in Northern California, but easily could find themselves in first, by the end of the year. Despite, having played two games less than the competition leading, Jesters Rugby, the Reds are still in the thick of the title hunt. This weekend, as they face the Steam Donkeys, who have only won one game, they are faced with a perfect opportunity to springboard their way back close to the top of the ladder. To do this they’ll need a big showing from Connor Smith and Robert Miller. The number eight and wing, respectively, have been massive in the success of the Reds all year. With ball in hand they pose a real threat to score every time and will force holes all through the defensive systems as teams try to cover both individuals. The Steam Donkeys are a team on the rise, after dropping their first two games they won their third in a convincing fashion. The play of scrumhalf Emmanuel Natividad was instrumental in their turnaround. They will once again need a huge performance from here to derail the Reds’ hopes of post season glory.


Mid-Atlantic Men’s Division III Central: North Bay Rugby vs. Frederick Rugby:

Getting the Mid-Atlantic back into the swing of things for the Spring season, are North Bay Rugby and Frederick Rugby. North Bay will be looking to reestablish their winning ways over the weekend, as they finished 2018 off with a loss; while Frederick will be looking to continue the momentum they built at the end of last season, when they won their first game of the season heading into the break. North Bay has demonstrated an ability to win in emphatic style, while also closing out the tight games. A lot of this comes down to the game management and kicking ability of their inside center Brenton Violante. His poise under pressure has helped North Bay in multiple situations this season. When the going gets hairy this weekend, expect North Bay to turn in Violante’s direction. For Frederick, a big reason for their win last time out was the play of their centers, Joseph Gongloff (outside) Johnathon Haney (inside). These two controlled the pitch and with assistance from their halves they were able to cut through the defense with ease. Expect a few of North Bay’s loose forwards to be hanging out in the middle of the field in order to negate Fredrick’s explosive centers.