After a 2-month hiatus, club fifteens has returned to the forefront of the domestic club landscape. The Women’s Premier League (WPL), and the Midwest kicked off last week; this week the action continues to escalate, with more unions getting their fall seasons underway. This week’s six-pack will bring in teams from the Empire, Midwest and New England Unions, producing some exciting matchups straight out of the gate.
Midwest Men’s Division III Iowa: Iowa City Ducks vs. Des Moines Rugby:
It’s a tantalizing matchup between two Iowan powerhouses this weekend, as the Iowa City Ducks host Des Moines Rugby. There is a strong history between the two clubs and there will be no love lost when they meet. Last year they were locked in a titanic battle that went down to the final whistle, not only for bragging rights but also, for the pool title.
The Ducks won last year’s series after winning the first leg 30-27 and then drawing the final leg. Those three points in the first leg proved to be the difference between winning and coming second in the pool. Despite the excruciating feeling, of coming so close but falling short, Des Moines isn’t looking back. “Revenge is not on our minds.” Noted Des Moines coach, Corey DeBord. “Playing our game and keeping away from silly penalties is our goal. If we can do that, we should be successful. Last year penalties and yellow cards plagued us against Iowa City.”
While Des Moines is looking to make a change from last year, the Ducks will be looking to repeat their formula for success. It’s a recipe that consists of, “Hard work, committed players, and a great support system,” according to the Ducks’ Tyler Dailey. The Ducks know they will have their work cut out for them, noting that Des Moines has a well-constructed team. “[They have] a good mix of veterans and youth, good organization and high school feeder clubs.” Noted new Ducks head coach, Marcus Dyer. While Des Moines conceded the challenge of what lies ahead, “We both play a similar style of fast moving, expansive Rugby. We both were hungry for a division championship last year. They’re great guys and a great team. We look forward to our matches with them every year.”
Des Moines’s outfit will be significantly different to the last time they played the Ducks. “We’ve moved some players to different positions to better accentuate our game plan.” Mentioned DeBord. “We had a couple guys retire and another is overseas. Luckily some of our new faces are able to slot in.” While Iowa City have reportedly stayed relatively unchanged, only adding a new coach and a few more players. Regardless of the changes, the Ducks aren’t taking anything for granted. As explained by Dyer, “I expect a well-coached, well-disciplined team that is hungry for revenge. The match will be hard fought from the first minute to the 80th, and we will need to be at the top of our game to walk away with a win.”
With this game serving as a launch pad for both teams’ new campaigns, they know the importance of Saturday’s fixture. Both teams have set humble, but lofty ambitions. If they are to reach them, it will start with a win on Saturday. It will be an 80-minute affair, and it will come down to discipline. Whoever can stay on the good side of the referee will be walking away victors.
Midwest Women’s Division II West-Green: Milwaukee Scylla vs. Palmer College Dragons:
One of this weekend’s most intriguing matchups comes out of the Midwest this weekend. The 2017 Women’s Division II National Champions, Milwaukee Scylla take on one of the most improved teams from last year, the Palmer College Dragons.
Last year Scylla were unable to capture the form of 2017 and finished third in their division. While the Dragons, who finished last in 2016-17, turned their fortunes around and finished second. Last year they split their head to head series and in the end only three points separated these teams. The Dragons will be led by Wren Felton and Hailey Ecksetin, both players crossed the line eleven times last year. For Scylla if they are to return to their 2017 form Abigail Williams will shoulder a lot of the load. The Prop not only was a force in the scrums, but was also dangerous with ball in hand contributing 17 tries last year. There should be plenty of fireworks and despite it being week one, there could be major playoff implications.
New England Men’s Division II: Mystic Barbarians vs. Boston Irish Wolfhounds:
New England kicks off its season with a playoff rematch. The Mystic Barbarians met the Boston Irish Wolfhounds in the semifinals of last year’s New England playoffs. On that occasion, it was the Barbarians walking away victorious, 48-26.
The Wolfhounds will be hoping to exact revenge for their postseason loss, and they will be looking to their regular season victory over the Barbarians last year, as a source of inspiration. For the Barbarians, their success will come down to their dynamic halves pairing of John Daly and Nick Vettese. If they can provide quick ball and dictate the tempo the Wolfhounds will be in for a long day. The Wolfhounds, similarly, will be looking to their backline for inspiration. In particular they will be expecting a big day from scrum-half Lucas Pialat and Fullback Patrick Meenan. These two standouts combined to nearly score 150 points last year and tallied 14 tries between them. If the weather holds up it should make for a high scoring encounter.
Midwest Men’s Division III East: Cleveland Crusaders D3 vs. Cleveland Rovers:
A crosstown rivalry will see, The Cleveland Crusaders D3 and Cleveland Rovers, the top two teams from the Midwest Men’s Division III East’s Ohio pool face off. Last year it was the Crusaders D3 that finished on top of the Rovers, both in the pool and their head-to-head series.
If last season is anything to go off, neither team will have any difficulty putting points up on the board. Neither team had particularly stout defenses, the Crusaders D3 letting in 19 points a game while the Rovers would let in 25. However, while defense might not be their strong suit, offense certainly is. The Crusaders accounted for 31 points a game while the Rovers were a bit more explosive, offering up 34 points per game.
Empire Men’s Division III: Ken-Ton Misfits vs. Southtowns Saxons:
In Western New York, The Ken-Ton Misfits and the Southtowns Saxons will square off in what is shaping up to be an evenly matched contest. Last year, the Misfits finished third in their pool, one spot ahead of the Saxons. Despite their close finish in the standings, their last meeting was not as tight, Misfits winning, 30-10.
2017 was a successful year for the Misfits, finishing at 7-1. A large factor in their success was the play of their inside center, Zachary Edwards. Edwards was a force for them all season long, crashing through the inside channels, while offering direction and distribution in attack. He will be the focal point of their attack again this season and will be the Saxon’s main priority this weekend. The Saxons went 5-3 last year putting up some major totals in the process. Similarly, to the Misfits, much of their success came from their inside center, Robert Beck. Beck was accurate with the boot, and precise with ball in hand, contributing the most points to the Saxons’ cause. Both teams have the chance to start the season off with a crucial win, and leave one of their main competitors playing catch up.
Midwest Men’s Division III Chicago Area: Illiana Misfits vs. Chicago Westside Condors (Chicago Rugby Club):
The final game of the six-pack will pit another two closely matched teams against one another. The Illiana Misfits will welcome the Chicago Westside Condors, a member of the Chicago Rugby Club, into Indiana as they try to make up for last year’s 29-10 defeat.
Both teams began their campaigns last weekend with strong victories. Ho
wever, if this year is to be more successful, for either team, consistency will be key. Neither team was able secure any real continuity in results last year, and if that is to change Saturday will prove a big test. Last year Illiana made their presence felt through a flexible backline. The Misfits lived up to their name by having player, especially in their backline play several different positions. Their adaptability will be a massive benefit to them this weekend and further into the season as it will allow them to employ different attacking tactics effectively. The Condors were able to grind out a solid win last weekend thanks, in large part, to Jorge Perez and the 12 points he contributed. They will be looking to him and Julio Celis, last year’s top point scorer, to carry them over the line this weekend.