Club Rugby Saturday Six Pack: Pivotal Weekend as Spring Rugby Kicks into Full Bloom

Critical matchups run throughout the country this weekend, as teams fight to see their seasons stay alive at least one week longer.

Florida Women’s Division II: Tampa Bay Krewe vs. Fort Miami Rugby:

The Florida regular season title is on the line this weekend when, undefeated, Fort Miami travels to take on the, 4-2, Tampa Bay Krewe. With two games left in the season, a win here would wrap up Fort Miami’s claim to the regular season crown; while a loss would set up a winner takes all show down next weekend. Both teams understand what is at stake and have a calm nervousness buzzing around camp, as the weekend’s fixture draws closer.

“It’s tough; It would be really easy to say there is no added pressure and it’s just another game, that’s how we’re trying to operate,” said Tampa Bay Krewe’s coach, Michelle Horevitz. “But everybody knows this is what we’ve been working for all season. Playing them back to back, if we come out on top in one, or both, it looks like we would be playing them again in the state final.” The work put in over the course of the season has been evident. The Krewe started off on rocky shores, going 1-2. Despite the slow start, the team knew what they were capable of and held the faith; only adding to the team’s anticipation, “Everybody’s excited about the opportunity to, maybe, get away on top.”

For Fort Miami, this is business as usual for them, a win this weekend would mark the fourth time in five years they have finished at the top of the table. The year they didn’t win, they came second on points differential. So when asked about the team’s preparation for Saturday Eyal Hakim, Fort Miami’s coach, explained, “[We’re] Treating it like any other game. We don’t know what they have to bring, because last year they were near the bottom of the table and they’ve got a couple new players that have elevated their play. We have our work cut out for us for sure this weekend.”

While Fort Miami’s pedigree makes it seem like the game is a foregone conclusion, there is a sense that the tide is shifting in Florida, and this could be the year a new time rises to the occasion. “They’re not the same they used to be,” explained Horevitz. Noting a bevy of former players, including Horevitz, have moved away from the club also mentioning it’s hard to predict what is in the cards for them this weekend, other than a tough match.

Despite not being fully aware of what awaits them, the Krewe are confident in their ability to make a fist of the contest. Their assurance comes from their depth of talent in the squad. Talent that is spearheaded by Ruth Black, their new team captain- who joined this summer after having spent time with the Worcester Valkyries of the Tyrrell’s Premier 15s competition. Horevitz was quick to sing her praises, “Ruth is a new player to us this year, she played in the premiership in England for a while. She started playing for us over the summer and immediately took on a leadership role. She’s the team captain, she’s scored most of our tries. She’s everything you could ever want in a captain.” However Black isn’t the only major contributor to the team, pointing to full back Paula Hoker and center Sam Black.  “Sam Black has playing center for most of the season, when she gets some open room, she’s been great. Our Fullback, Paula Hoke, is 18 and hits like you wouldn’t believe. She’s one of the reasons we’ve had any shutouts at all.”

Fort Miami has taken note of the talent they will be coming up against, with Hakim identifying both the center and number eight for Tampa Bay as two players that need to be shutdown. “From what I understand the have a hard-nosed number eight who has been tearing up the Florida Union and a hard-nosed outside.” However, Hakim is more than confident in his players’ ability to match up with anything the Krewe throw their way, singling out, Lindsey Koren and  Kim Semiglia. Koren has been in immense form scoring 15 tries on the season, while Semiglia has been slotting in at center and holding the line defensively and in attack.

At the end of the day, this game will most likely come down to who can last the full eighty minutes. For Tampa Bay, this has been an issue which has rectified itself in the last month; but still something that haunts them on occasion. Fort Miami, has put a large focus on their defensive efforts, which if they can sustain for 80 minutes will hold them in good stead, but a momentary lapse here or there, with Tampa Bay’s fire power could spell disaster. This promises to be a great game with both teams hungry for a win.”

Mid-Atlantic Men’s Division I North: Schuylkill River Exiles vs. Rocky Gorge Rugby:

One visits two in the Northern pool of the Mid-Atlantic Men’s Division I competition, as Rocky Gorge makes the trip to Schuylkill River to play the Exiles. This is the second time these two have met this season. On the first occasion, it was a game the Exiles will be looking to leave behind them. Traveling to Rocky Gorge proved to be too much and the Exiles fell, 55-12. As they prepare to host this weekend, they’ll be hoping their home field provides them with support. Their task will have been made slightly easier by Rocky Gorge’s loss of Eagle Ben Cima, who is now spending his time in MLR, with the Seattle Seawolves. However, they are not completely out of the woods just yet, with Rocky Gorge still in possession of their prolific fullback Nick Kuhl, who has a strike rate of more than a try per game. If the Exiles are to reverse the previous fixture, they will need to game-plan, heavily, around Kuhl and his ability to slot into the attacking line at any time. On the other hand the Exiles will be relying on their flyhalf Brian Keown and his trusty boot to help guide them to victory.  There is a lot on the line for Schuylkill River this weekend, expect them to come out swinging in the opening minutes to try and establish a solid foundation to build from.

Mid-Atlantic Men’s Division III Central: Western Suburbs Rugby vs. Washington Renegades:

League leaders, the Washington Renegades will take the trip out to Virginia to take on third placed Western Suburbs Rugby. The Renegades enjoyed a tremendous run during the fall, going 6-1, they will be looking for a similar run of form during the Spring. Western Suburbs had a similar run going 5-2. However, their two game losing skid will be something they look to avoid this Spring. Despite one less win than the Renegades, only three competition points separate the two teams. The Renegades will be looking to their fullback Zach Mietus, to carry much of the attacking load this weekend. He has a penchant for finding the line, averaging a try in every game he plays. Conversely, Western Suburbs will be looking to their wing Gary Jackson, who has scored eight tries so far this season. Both teams will look to keep the ball away from their opposition’s back three, given their counter-attacking abilities; which means there should be a fair amount of running rugby. Don’t be surprised if the scoreboard gets worked over in this matchup.

 

Red River Men’s Division II South: San Marcos Greys vs. Houston United

It’s another pivotal matchup, as second in the division, 4-2, Houston United face third placed, 3-3, San Marcos Greys. It’s been a wild year for both teams as, despite the fact they have records at .500 or just above, they are both in a primed position for a playoff push. HURT started the season off in hot form, winning their first three fixtures, but then going on to on a 1-2 run in their last three outings. San Marcos, alternatively, have been consistently inconsistent. They are yet to string together a set of wins or losses. Winning a game then losing the next, continuing onwards. If their current pattern holds true for the weekend, they’ll lose this game. However, the Greys will be entering this contest filled with confidence, as in their last outing they were able to dismantle the West Houston Lions D2 squad, 68-19; a massive turnaround from their 17-21 loss the last time they played them. On this occasion the Greys were led by inside center Will Burns, who scored a hat-trick. They will be hoping he has the same kind of performance this weekend against HURT. For HURT, they have a dynamic fullback, Alexander Liles, who will be the glue that holds their attack together over the 80 minutes. Liles has proven himself useful with ball in hand or off a tea, contributing 73 points to his team’s cause this year. It will be an interesting contest, one that is hard to pick this far out, however one thing is guaranteed in this fixture, there will be major playoff implications for each team once the full time whistle is blown.

 

Pacific South Men’s Division II: Red Mountain Warthogs vs. San Diego Old Aztecs:

Top of the table privileges are on the line for the San Diego Old Aztecs this weekend, when they head out to Arizona to take on the Red Mountain Warthogs. The Old Aztecs are currently in second place, behind the Ventura County Outlaws- having played one less game. With a bonus point win here, they will be a point ahead of the Outlaws going into the last games of the season; and have their destiny in their hands. The Warthogs, are not in playoff contention sitting second from the bottom in the competition standings with a 2-4 record. Despite their record, they have shown an ability to put points up on the board, only failing to score 20 or more points once. Unfortunately for the Warthogs, San Diego has the most prolific attack in the competition and the stingiest defense to boot. This should be a win for the Old Aztecs, but the Warthogs have demonstrated their acute ability to be a thorn in the side of their opposition all year long. The Old Aztecs, will be making sure they don’t take this fixture lightly.

 

Carolinas-Georgia Men’s Division II: Tobacco Road Rugby vs. Charlotte Rugby:

Charlotte Rugby has a chance to take over first spot in the competition if they are able to see off Tobacco Road Rugby this weekend. Both teams have had strong seasons so far, but Charlotte has the chance to capitalize on being a game behind the schedule. They currently sit at 4-0—1 and have 22 competition points, only two points less than top of the ladder, Southern Pines Rugby. Southern Pines has played six games this year, one more than Tobacco Road and Charlotte, so with a win to either team it will create a rat race at the top of the ladder. Both teams operate well as units, and cohesiveness is their strongest point. The game will ultimately come down to whichever team can break up the other’s game plan with the most effectiveness. Whichever team shows the most resiliency or flexibility in the way they approach the fixture will likely come out on top.