Club Saturday Six Pack: Midwest Playoffs

Midwest Women’s Division II Eastern Conference Final: Pittsburgh Forge vs. Buffalo Rugby:

The only rematch this weekend will see the Pittsburgh Forge host Buffalo Rugby for their second encounter of the season. On their last outing it was the Forge who narrowly pulled out the win in a high scoring and thoroughly entertaining affair, 41-39. This weekend, Buffalo thinks they have what it takes to get one over the Forge.

“[Last time] We didn’t quite have the competition or practice to be where we wanted to be with introducing a new system to the girls- we were still trying to get on board with that at the time,” Buffalo Head Coach Jerry Hann explained. “They caught us in a weaker point in our ability to play…As far as the girls were concerned they would have liked to start another game right after that one.” Hann, as a reflection of his players, sounds confident in his team’s ability to rectify their mistakes from the last outing. However, who they faced in September will be vastly different to who they face this week.

Pittsburgh has only played one game since then, but any signs of rust or complacency were shaken off, when they defeated Columbus Rugby by 31 points only two weeks ago. This has been a theme for the Forge in their first year in existence. Through all of their games, 36 was the lowest total they scored, and outside of the Buffalo game, they have won all of their games by at least two tries. They are well deserving of their spot in the Eastern Conference Final, and Buffalo knows it.

“This week we’re going in understanding this is an even match,” began Hann. “I expect them to be even better than the last game we played them in. They looked very structured. This is going to be very equal. I expect them to be at the top of their game on Saturday.” Seeing the Forge at the top of their game is a scary prospect, especially when looking at the numbers they have put up over the year.  They average 45 points a game, while only letting in 20 points a contest. Comparatively Buffalo scores on average 40 points a game, while letting in a total of 17. As Hann predicted it looks like it will be an evenly contested game.

Leading the charge for the Forge will be Ashley Chipps and Olivia Lindsey, who have scored six and five tries on the season. The two of them have proven to be a dangerous 8-9 connection throughout the year. Buffalo will have to be very aware around breakdowns and the back of scrums to ensure they don’t fall victim to the havoc these two can create around the paddock.

For Buffalo, Hann was reluctant to single out one player in particular because there has been such a tremendous effort from all the players on his squad, but he did concede that their scrumhalf, Colleen Benack has been the most consistent. “It’s been quite a team effort because we haven’t had the same faces in the same positions all year,” said Hann. “I would have to say Colleen Benack our number nine has been the most consistent. She’s a silent leader. She does the right thing and everybody follows.”

This undoubtedly will run down to the wire, as the teams are almost perfectly aligned between their statistics and the positions that will have the greatest impact on the game. Whoever makes it out of this contest will have legitimate Midwest and National Championship aspirations.

Midwest Men’s Division II Semifinal: Cleveland Crusaders vs. Indianapolis Impalas:

The Cleveland Crusaders and the Indianapolis Impalas are squaring off this weekend in what could be the highest scoring fixture. The Crusaders average 42 points a game while the Impalas are a fraction more dangerous averaging 49 points a game. While, the Crusaders don’t score as many points as the Impalas, their defense is less porous, as on average they will let in 12 points less per game. Defense could be the key to victory for both teams. If Indianapolis is unable to break through the Crusaders line they could find themselves in trouble, especially considering the men from Ohio can score as prolifically as the Impalas. The best chance the Impalas will have of cracking the line is going to come from Brian Parks who has scored 7 tries on the season. If they can’t get the job done on the ground they may turn to the air with the trusty boot of Michael Temple, who has added over 110 points to the team’s total this season. For the Crusaders, they are in a similar predicament with the trusty boot of Joseph Wollerman and the try scoring capabilities of Stephen Fritsch. These two teams are almost a mirror images of each other, and it will prove to be a tug of war to see which team can find the advantage over their opponent.  

Midwest Men’ Division III Western Conference Semifinal: Fox Valley Maoris vs. St. Cloud Bottom Feeders:

Arguably the most explosive side in the Midwest, the Fox Valley Maoris will come up against one of the most complete teams in the Midwest, The St. Cloud Bottom Feeders. The Maoris have been on a tear this year. In nine games, they have rung up 595 points including a 153-0 demolition of the Chicago Dragons. The heart and soul of this remarkable attack is flyhalf, Cody Crawford who has scored 173 points on the year, five times more than anyone else on the team. Crawford leads the team in both tries (13) conversions (45) and penalties (6). The Bottom Feeders game plan will be simple, contain Crawford. However, as is often the case, things are easier said than done. The Bottom Feeders have conceded an average of 18 points a game while putting up 46 points a game. They will need to bring both sides of the ball with them this weekend if they have any chance of keeping pace with the Maoris. The winner of this contest will go on to face the winner of Milwaukee Rugby vs. Bremer County Bucks for a shot at getting to the Midwest Men’s Division III title game.

Midwest Men’s Division IV Eastern Conference Semifinals: Findlay Scars vs. Columbus Coyotes:

The Division IV semifinals could be the most interesting competition to follow all weekend, and within it Findlay Scars vs. Columbus Coyotes may be the most intriguing matchup. The Scars enter Saturday as the second seed in the east, and the Coyotes as the third. Both teams have shown an ability to play quality rugby, Findlay winning a game by 38 and Columbus by 33, but they have also shown an ability to be on the receiving end of blow outs. The Coyotes have lost two games by over 50 points and the Scars have lost one by 47. The question that is posed for this weekend’s encounter is, which team will show up? The Scars will be hoping it is the team that closed their season out. In their final two games of the season they outscored their opposition by 47-29. No easy task considering it included traveling to Fort Wayne D4 and handing them their only loss of the season. For the Coyotes, they too had an impressive end to their season. In their last two games, they closed out their opponents 82-22. If both teams keep their form from the end of the season it promises to be an excellent match. If they bring their form from the beginning season, it will be anyone’s guess as to how it will finish up. The winner of this match will then go on to face the winner of the Lancaster Men of Stone vs. Fort Wayne game for a spot in the Midwest Men’s Division IV Championship.

Midwest Women’s Division II Western Conference Final: Milwaukee Scylla vs. Chicago Sirens:

The 2017 Women’s Division II National Champions, Milwaukee Scylla will look to put themselves in a position to make it two national titles in three years when they step out against the Chicago Sirens. The Scylla’s road to the Midwest Women’s Division II Western Conference Final has been a bumpy one. They have had to overcome two losses over the course of the season to reach this stage. One of the big reasons for their ability to bounce back from two losses was the play of Abigail Williams. The bruising inside center has scored eight tries
on the season. She is also handy off the tee, slotting penalties and conversions when called upon. The Sirens will have their work cut out for them trying to contain such a multi-faceted talent. If there is a team that can shut Williams and the Scylla down it’s the Sirens. The Sirens have an sordidly tough defense, which has only let in 41 points all year. These two teams match up incredibly well and its shaping up to be the ultimate test of offense vs. defense. They will face the winner of the Eastern Conference final for the Midwest’s spot at nationals.

Midwest Men’s Division III Eastern Conference Semifinals: Louisville Rugby vs. Presque Isle Scallywags:  

After a well-earned break last weekend, the Presque Isle Scallywags more than any other team will have put that rest to good use. In their last outing, they saw of a fierce Cleveland Crusaders D3 side in extra-time to book their spot in this weekend’s conference semifinal. Having played 120 minutes of rugby, the extra week’s recovery will have been greatly appreciated. As they prepare to take on Louisville Rugby. The men from Kentucky have been one of the best teams in the country so far, this season. Through their nine games this season, they have scored over 50 points on five occasions and  have won their games by an average of 33 points. To win this game they’ll need to have their high powered offense firing on all cylinders, including Mike Udoh and Kolton Nelson, both of whom have scored ten or more tries over the season. For the Scallywags, they have a stout and stingy defense. They will be tested constantly over the course of Saturday, but will do their best to bend but not break. The winner of this contest will play again on Sunday, facing the winner of the Grand Rapids vs. Dayton Flying pigs, for a chance to reach the Midwest Men’s Division III championship match.

Complete Midwest Matchups Below:

Men’s Division II    
Wisconsin Rugby vs. Pittsburgh Forge
Cleveland Crusaders vs. Indianapolis Impalas
Women’s Division II    
Pittsburgh Forge vs. Buffalo Rugby
Milwaukee Scylla vs. Chicago Sirens
Men’s Division III-East    
Grand Rapids Gazelles vs. Dayton Flying Pigs
Louisville Rugby vs. Presque Isle Scallywags
Men’s Division III-West    
Milwaukee Rugby vs. Bremer County Bucks
Fox Valley Maoris vs. St. Cloud Bottom Feeders
Men’s Division IV- East    
Lancaster Men of Stone vs. Fort Wayne Rugby D4
Findlay Scars vs. Columbus Coyotes
Men’s Division IV- West    
Chicago Blaze D4 vs. Metropolis D4
Indianapolis Impalas D4 vs. Cedar Rapids Headhunters