Club Rugby Saturday Six Pack: Playoffs are on the Line as Top of the Table Teams Clash

Women’s Premier League: Beantown Rugby vs. New York Rugby :

Three of the four spots at the Women’s Premier League (WPL) semifinals have been booked, the final spot will, likely, go to the winner of the Beantown New York Rugby game this weekend. New York currently is sitting in the final semifinal spot ahead of Beantown, but they are only one competition point ahead of their rivals. The equation for both teams is pretty simple, win or go home.

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With so much work and commitment over the season coming down to one game, it would be easy to understand why each team would be nervous or tense, as game day approaches. However, neither Beantown or New York are admitting to having any pregame jitters.

“Lucy (Oswald) and I are really big on playing one game at a time.” New York’s coach Tiffany Faaee, stated. “We’re not worrying about nationals, we are just focused on playing the next 80 minutes… working on short term goals and trusting the rest will work out.”

For Beantown, they have a similar approach. They are just focusing on making sure they do not put the cart before the horse and take care of what is lying directly in front of them. “We’re just conducting practice like we normally would,” explained Olivia Benzen-Daniel, coach for Beantown. “We’re watching game tape from the other team and putting out game strategy around what we’ll need to do to win and treat it the same as we would any other weekend.”

When the nerves and adversity start to kick in both teams know who they will look to for the calming influence. According to Faaee, New York will look to the steady hands and leadership abilities of Jen Salomon and Tahlia Brody, “We’re going to ask a lot of our captains Jen Salomon and Tahlia Brody. They’re the type of captains that lead on the field.” For Brody, she is the anchor of the back row, which has been hit hard throughout the season with a plague of injuries; and Salomon, the Fullback, will need to provide direction to a talented but occasionally inconsistent backline.

The major leader for Beantown is, their Eagle and fly-half, Kimber Rozier. “Kimber is a really strong force in terms of keeping the team focused and moving them around on offense. She’s a good leader on and off the field,” said Benzen-Daniel. Beantown, according to Benzen-Daniel, will look to Tatjana Toeldte to provide additional support.

Rozier is a player, Faaee knows, New York will have to account for. The two of them were teammates on the Eagles, and Faaee knows firsthand, just how lethal Rozier can be to her opposition’s aspirations. “Having Kimber on their roster helps them a lot. She’s a small player, but I know for myself she lifts morale by just having the confidence and skill she does. She’s going to be the player for us to shut down.”

When parlayed with Beantown’s prediction it seems as though this weekend will be a duel between fly halves. Benzen-Daniel was quick to identify that “They’re 10 looks like someone we’ll need to shut down.” The number ten that she refers to is Kristen Siano, who has been instrumental to New York’s success this year.

Both teams know exactly what they’ll have to do to win. For New York it is not leaving points on the board. Faaee admitted that they’ve fallen victim to a bad habit of working their way into a scoring opportunity but come up empty handed. They know against a quality outfit like Beantown, that won’t cut it. In Beantown’s sheds, they are talking about support. They know how effective New York is around the breakdown, so they want to make sure they’re never caught in isolation.

It promises to be a fiercely competitive match this weekend and one that showcases the strength of the WPL. Faaee summed up the importance of the match and of the success which the WPL has enjoyed this year nicely when she noted, “I really appreciate, from being a player last year, seeing the level it’s at this year. This is exactly the competition we want, where you don’t know who is going to win. It’s been a great year for women’s rugby and I am very proud to be a part of it.”

Great Lakes Men’s Division II: Buffalo Rugby vs. Cleveland Crusaders:

In the Great Lakes division, there is a critical matchup between one and two. Buffalo Rugby hosts the Cleveland Crusaders. The winner of this game, likely, will go on to win the competition. While the Crusaders have one game left after this weekend, this Buffalo’s final game of the year. The men from Western New York are currently sitting in first place with 29 points, the Crusaders are in second with 26. Both teams have only lost one game this year, the Pittsburgh Forge got the better over Buffalo, and Buffalo got the best of the Crusaders in their September encounter. A win this weekend, for Buffalo, could create as much as an eight-point buffer between first and second. If Cleveland wins, and Buffalo does not get any bonus point, they will be anointed champions. However, there is an outcome in which Cleveland can win and remain in second. This would require Buffalo to lose by 7 and score four tries. Both teams are under no illusions about the significance of this game and will be looking to score as many points as possible to secure their fate.

Mid-Atlantic Men’s Division I: Rocky Gorge Rugby vs. Potomac Exiles:
It is still early in the Mid-Atlantic season, but we could already be getting a glimpse into their championship game.  Rocky Gorge currently sits in first place of the Mid-Atlantic North Division where they possess a perfect record. It’s been a comfortable start for the men from Columbia, Maryland. They have won all of their games by at least 24 points. Rocky Gorge has been led by Nick Kuhl and USA Eagle, Ben Cima. Between the two of them they have combined for roughly half of the squad’s points this year. On the other side of the pitch this weekend lies the Potomac Exiles, who despite a 1-3-1 record sit in first place in the South Division. Despite only winning one game this year, they have been incredibly competitive and shown an ability to score points. Through their five games played, they have outscored every team in the competition, except Rocky Gorge. The biggest loss they have suffered this year was only 11 points, and so have accumulated plenty of bonus points. It will be an interesting game to watch, as two offensive powers trade blows, the question that remains is whether or not this will be the weekend the Exiles can put it all together for eighty minutes on both sides of the ball.

Carolinas Men’s Division III: Cape Fear Rugby vs Triad Rugby:

This weekend, Cape Fear will be taking on Triad Rugby in the South’s Division III play. Although their season is only a week old, Cape Fear has already shown tremendous resiliency. A few weeks before their season was set to kick off they suffered massive losses when they were hit by Hurricane Florence. For Cape Fear, their pitch and storage facilities, which held the majority the club’s equipment, was completely decimated. Not to mention the significant impact the hurricane had on many of the team’s players. Despite this, Cape Fear has turned to rugby as an escape for their players and have continued to play through such adverse conditions. After losing their first game of the season last weekend, Cape Fear will be eager to get into the winner’s circle this weekend when they take on Triad Rugby. This will be the first game of the year for Triad.  

A GoFundMe page has been set up by Cape Fear to help ease the financial burden that the hurricane has placed on the club.

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Midwest Premiership: Detroit Tradesmen vs. Chic
ago Lions:

In their final hit out before heading to the Elite Cup next weekend, the Chicago Lions will take on the Detroit Tradesmen. This is the second time these two will square off against one another. The first time these two met it was a lop-sided 21 point win to the Lions, however that win was against a depleted Tradesmen squad. This weekend the team should be at full strength and they will give the Lions a run for their money. The Lions will be relishing the opportunity to play a team of the Tradesmen caliber before heading down to Georgia to take on Old Blue. If the Tradesmen are to reverse the result from last time, they will need a big game from their number eight, Joe Bargerstock. The back rower has been immense all year for the Tradesmen scoring nine tries on the season. It will be good practice for the Lions who will have their handsfull this weekend and next containing dynamic forward packs. 

Mid-Atlantic Women’s Division II North: Harrisburg Rugby vs. Phoenixville White Horse:

One meets two when Harrisburg welcomes Phoenixville White Horse to town this weekend. Through the first four weeks of competition, Harrisburg has a shining 4-0 record, White Horse has a equally impressive 3-1 recored. Both teams have deadly attacks. The two teams are averaging 47 and 34 points, respectively, per game. The big difference between the two sides, though, has been defense. Harrisburg has only let in 12 points per contest, White Horse has let in a hair over 30. If White Horse is going to be any chance of handing Harrisburg their first loss of the season, they will need to tighten the screws and beat them in the physical confrontations first.