This week’s Saturday six-pack, highlighting the best games uploaded into the USA Rubgy’s Competition Management System, sees teams from the Atlantic North, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and Pacific Northwest all take the pitch. It also sees the debut of a new Women’s Division I competition with the premier teams from along the East-coast going toe to toe.
Eastern Women’s Division I: Albany Sirens vs. Philadelphia Rugby:
This week’s featured game is a rematch of last year’s Women’s Division Eastern Playoffs repechage match, between the Albany Sirens and Philadelphia Women’s Rugby. It will also be the first bout in the newly established Eastern Women’s Division I Competition. The new East-coast women’s competition is a newly established effort to bring the best teams on the East-coast together to give them a wider variety and higher quality of games throughout the season. Teams from the Atlantic North, South and Mid-Atlantic divisions will all be partaking in the competition.
When these two teams last met, it was a tooth and nail affair, with a spot to the playoffs on the line. In the end, an 80th minute try to Philadelphia was all that separated them. When asked about any residual feelings from their last match-up, Albany’s captain, Megan Reed, light heartedly referred to it as “The weekend of redemption.” But on a more earnest tone Reed noted, “We are looking at it from a positive side. We would love to get revenge, but we are in a much bigger pond this year, we’re excited to show what we are able to do and see what we’ll need to improve on. Everyone is hungry.” Philadelphia, has a similar outlook on the game, as their coach Arturo Bravo Nuevo noted that Albany will be a, “Very motivated team, we are ready for the new season, but they have excellent coaches and they will be well prepared.”
Both teams share a joint sense of excitement as they enter the new season and their new competition format. A lot of the anticipation stems from the greater level of exposure to high quality teams. “We are really looking forward to it,” Started Nuevo. “We’re used to only playing Raleigh and NOVA (Northern Virginia). They are very good teams, but there are only so many times you can play the same teams. More competition is good for us and it has been a good move. This has already improved the competition.”
Albany’s coach, Lori Staples, felt similarly to Nuevo. “Exciting to be a part in the competition. We’ve spent the last 3-4 years playing the same teams. It’s nice to be playing new teams and it’s nice to be playing high quality matches each weekend. It raises the quality across the board.”
However, before these two teams can get into the meat of the competition, they’ll first have to go through each other first. Last year’s repechage was the first time either team had come up against each other, but they both believe to have a sense of familiarity about the other side. Nuevo noting., “They’re a very well coached side and have undoubtedly done some work looking back at the film. Last time we didn’t know each other, we were trying to feel each other out. Now that we’ve both looked at the film we will have a better knowledge of each other’s game. We will have to be good at the breakdown. They have a strong flyhalf and flankers.”
Staples supplied a similar response, “We’re not entirely sure what to expect, but we don’t expect them to have changed too much. We know we will have to pay close attention to their 9 and forward pack. They know how to move the ball down the field.”
Knowing what the other team is capable of is only half the battle. They’ll also need to understand their strengths in order to execute this weekend. Both teams have a strong understanding of their abilities and, more importantly, how it fits in against their opposition. For Philadelphia, they know the Sirens aren’t going to give anything away and they will have to take everyy opportunity afforded to them.
“We’re very dynamic and we will need to capitalize on chances when we are given them.” Nuevo explained. “Keeping the ball off the floor as much as possible will be important for us too.”
For Albany, they will be looking to make sure there is no rust left on them from the break. “We’ll need to focus on the fundamentals,” admitted Staples. “If we can keep possession and eliminate our issues with penalties, we will be in good shape.”
This game, and the East-Coast Women’s League as a whole, promises to be an exciting competition to follow as it plays out.
Midwest Men’s Division I: St. Louis Bombers vs. Metropolis Rugby:
After a dream start to their debut in the Midwest Premiership, the St. Louis Bombers will be looking to make it two from two when they take on last year’s strongest performers, Metropolis. Neither team took any prisoners last weekend, both winning by over 20 points. The Bombers were led by their wing, Chris Campbell who scored two tries in the first half. It gave them a much-needed buffer heading into the half. For Metropolis, they had no issue putting the Milwaukee Barbarians away, 72-3. If Metropolis are looking to replicate their successes, the backline will be at the forefront of those efforts. Of their 12 tries last weekend ten were scored by backs, including 4 by Ratu Peceli Rinakama. The Bombers will have their hands full trying to shut down this potent attack.
Midwest Women’s Division II: Cleveland Iron Maidens vs. Pittsburgh Forge:
In a top of the table clash, Cleveland’s Iron Maidens will host the Pittsburgh Forge, who are currently in the midst of their first season. Scoring points won’t be an issue for either team, as they both racked up over five tries, last weekend. The biggest key to success for each team will be getting off to a quick start. Both teams, comparatively, struggled to score in the first half of their matches last round. While they have demonstrated an ability to score in quick bursts, that may not be enough to see them over the line this weekend, if their opponent gets up big early.
Pacific Northwest Men’s Division II: Boise United vs. Eastside Tsunami:
An old guard meets a new team with familiar faces this weekend. Last year’s Pacific Northwest Division II champions, Eastside Tsunami will visit the newly established Boise United. Boise United is an amalgamation of the Snake River and 43rd State teams. Snake River finished second in the Pacific Northwest Division II runners up last year, and it will be interesting to see if their new resources will help them move past last year’s champions.
American Rugby Premiership: New York Athletic vs. Life Running Eagles:
The first round of the American Rugby Premiership got off to a hot start last week, with both games coming down to the final minutes. Week 2 promises more of the same. Last weekend New York Athletic (NYAC) was on the wrong end of a last-minute penalty kick against Old Blue of New York. Contrarily, Life Running Eagles were able to score a game winning try, against Mystic River, with only five minutes left in the game. Both teams have excellent backlines, with an ability to play at high speed and spread their opposition thin. The key for Life this weekend, will be to ensure that they are switched on for the full 80 minutes. A 20-minute lapse to begin the second half almost cost them the game against Mystic River. For NYAC they’ll need to ensure their discipline is in order, to avoid a repeat of last weekend.
Mid-Atlantic Men’s Division III: Reading Rugby vs. Wiles-Barre Scranton Breakers:
In a rematch between the first and second place finishers in last year’s Mid-Atlantic Division III North Blue Pool, Reading Rugby will host the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Breakers. Last year the series between these two teams was split, 1-1, and despite the Breakers winning the pool, it was Reading that won the series on an aggregate score of 56-49. This will b
e the first game of the 2018-19 season for each team, so they’ll both be hoping to get out of the blocks with an impressive win.