LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Last week’s half-dozen club games highlighted in the Saturday Six-Pack lacked the upsets many of the games showed potential to provide. Conference leaders Columbus Castaways, St. Louis Royals, Tucson Lightning, and Washington Irish held their ground atop their respective standings tables, while Life West showed well against Olympic Club and the Austin Huns overtook the top spot in the Red River after downing the Dallas Reds.
Washington Irish 22 – 15 Northern Virginia Rugby
The Washington Irish will carry the Mid-Atlantic South’s No. 1 seed into the conference’s two-week playoff after defeating Northern Virginia on the road, 22-15.
During a game in which the score was never separated by more than seven points, winger Bobby Kling scored two first half tries to put the Irish up, 12-7, at halftime. Coming off of a 31-point effort against Rocky Gorge’s D2 side, NOVA’s Anthony Everson tallied 10 of his team’s 15 points, including a three-point shot at goal two minutes into the second half to pull NOVA to within two points of Washington.
Chris Curtis extended the Irish’s lead to seven when the scrum half dotted down, but Everson answered with his ninth try of the season in the 58th minute. Holding a narrow, 17-15, advantage, the Washington Irish buckled down on defense for the final 20 minutes and managed to send lock William Shea over the line for one final score.
The 22-15 victory likely means a Saturday, April 29, MAC Semifinal date against North Division’s Old Gaelic Rugby. Old Gaelic is currently tied in the North with Philadelphia Whitemarsh, but the latter still has one more regular season game to build on its 31 points in the standings table. Philadelphia hosts the Lancaster Roses Saturday, April 22. A win, tie, or bonus-point defeat will secure a North Division crown for the Whitemarsh.
NOVA still has National postseason hopes as the Mid-Atlantic South’s No. 2 seed. Winners of the April 29 MAC Semifinals – hosted by the No. 1 seeds – will advance to the Saturday, May 6, D2 Men’s MAC Championship in Richmond, Va., where a place in the National Quarterfinals will be on the line.
Tucson Lightning 36 – 17 Las Vegas Slots
A comprehensive performance in Sin City produced a bonus-point victory and the Pacific South’s No. 1 playoff seed for the Tucson Lightning. The visiting Lightning sent three players into the try zone for a 19-0 lead before Slots scrum half Tyler Malcolm got her side on the scoreboard with a try in the 34th minute.
Trailing, 19-5, at halftime, Las Vegas prop Jeruscha Ako’s converted try pulled her team within seven points of the lead before a penalty try awarded to Tucson pushed the Lightning’s lead back to seven.
Malcolm would strike again for the Slots in the 73rd minute for her sixth try of the season, but it was the Lightning who had the fresher legs down the stretch. Tucson’s Kristina Aprahamian and Morgan Haggerty dotted down in the game’s final five minutes to solidify a 36-17 win and SoCal’s No. 1 seed in the Women’s D2 playoffs.
“The biggest contributor to our success on the field is how cohesive we are as a team. When we step on the pitch we play for each other and keep each other mentally grounded,” assessed Lightning flanker Deidre Kruckenberg. “Each game we win is because we are committed to putting our bodies on the line and keeping positive from the first minute to the 80th.”
Despite the loss, Las Vegas still earns a spot in the April 22 conference playoffs. The Slots will play No. 2 seed Pasadena Rugby, while Tucson has drawn the Ventura Country Lady Outlaws. Winners of the April 22 Southern California Semifinals will play for the conference championship and a place in the National Quarterfinals Saturday, April 29, at the Little Q in San Diego.
Life West Gladiators 20 – 15 Olympic Club
The Gladiators of Life West overcame a halftime deficit to dispatch Olympic Club in a crucial Northern California Division I contest.
Tries by Life West’s Tyler Harrison and Moni Tongauiha went unconverted in the first half, leaving the team in a two-point hole at intermission, 12-10. A resolute defensive effort over the second half and individual brilliance by Harrison pushed the Gladiators ahead over the second 40 minutes. Life West held O-Club to just one second half penalty, while sending Harrison over the line for two more tries to secure a 20-15 victory.
Austin Huns 40 – 19 Dallas Reds
A bonus-point win over the Reds has propelled the new-look Huns to the top of Red River’s Men’s Division I standings.
The Reds returned to the Red River competition a week after claiming the 2017 Rugby Gold Cup in Minneapolis. Austin, however, spoiled Dallas’ return to the Lone Star State by running in six tries on its way to a 40-19 win. Both defeats, the only losses of the Reds’ season, came at the hands of the Huns after a 24-18 final in February also went the way of Austin.
The 2017 results are a stark contrast of last year’s games between the two Texas rivals. Last spring, Dallas won both meetings on its way to a Red River title. One key reason the Huns won both of their fixtures against the Reds and currently sit atop the Red River standings are some of the impressive recruits the club has brought in since last season. Two of those key recruits, Hanco Germishuys and Martin Knoetze, scored tries for Austin, but it was a veteran of the club that earned Man of the Match on the afternoon. Captain and inside center Lomani Tongotongo scored the team’s first try and led from the front during the 21-point win.
Columbus Castaways 50 – 20 Cincinnati Kelts
The Castaways continue to roll in the Midwest Division III South Conference. Columbus improved to 11-0 by hammering Cincinnati Kelts, 50-20.
After battling the Castaways to an eight-point loss in Columbus back in October, the second-place Kelts’ home game against the division leaders had the perceived makings of a tight contest. In fact, Cincinnati was more than up for the challenge in the early stages, building a 15-7 lead just 20 minutes into the game.
The final 60 minutes, however, belonged to Columbus.
Four tries in the closing 20 minutes of the opening half, including a pair from eight man Justin Stevens, had the Castaways up, 35-15. The visitors made wholesale changes to the lineup early in the second half, but Stevens stayed on to add a third try in the 76th minute, and reserve Charles McHenry scored his first of the season to cap a 50-20 victory.
St. Louis Royals 49 – 17 St. Louis Bombers
League leaders St. Louis Royals bolstered their point differential to plus-234 thanks to a 32-point win over the St. Louis Bombers. The Royals ran in eight tries on their way to a 49-17 win.
After going undefeated in conference play the past two years, the Royals only need to win the April 15 rematch against the Bombers to complete another perfect Mid-America Division III season. Given the team’s current form, the Royals must surely be eyeing improvement on last year’s postseason campaign that ended in the National Quarterfinals.