Club Rugby Saturday Six Pack: Rivalries Gain Extra Meaning in the Playoffs

Many of the matches taking place around the country are rivalry games, and with them occurring in the playoffs, it just adds even more intensity.

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New England Men’s Division III: Providence Rugby vs. Charles River Rats:

In what is quickly becoming one of the best rivalries in all of club rugby, the Charles River Rats will head to Rhode Island to take on foes, Providence Rugby. While the rivalry has been simmering for the last several years, it reached its boiling point last year, coincidently, in the first round of the New England Playoffs- were they’ll meet again on Saturday.

In last year’s  game,  Providence entered as hot favorites, after going 9-0 and receiving the first seed. Charles River, however, entered with a 6-3 record. Three of those six wins came, consecutively, after their loss to Providence in the regular season. The post season match went in favor of Charles River, 25-24 thanks to a last minute penalty. Needless to say, that loss is still fresh on the minds of Providence. “We have a bit of history with them, which favors their side. They knocked us out of the playoffs this time last year. So we’re coming back hoping to win this time around and get a little bit of revenge,” noted Michael McGeachy the Providence head coach. Charles River sees this as another excellent game in this enthralling rivalry. Head coach David McVey explaining, “They’re an excellent, and particularly athletic, team. We always have to bring in our best game to compete with them. They’re an opponent we never take for granted.”

There is good reason for not taking each other for granted, both teams have compiled competitive records entering the postseason and look primed to make a deep run. Providence enters with an 8-1 record, and Charles River with a 7-2 record. Providence’s sole loss came at the hands of Charles River. McGeachy believes they have learned their lessons from their previous encounters, “A lot of it is just going to be the basics. We didn’t really make our tackles and hats off to Charles River they exploited that. They crashed hard with their centers, they’ve got  a center who is a really tough player and runs good hard angles.”

McVey puts the success they’ve enjoyed throughout the year down to the quality of personnel they’ve found. Mcvey expounding,  “I’d say our depth. We’ve been really lucky to have a really broad squad of players who bring different skills. As a coach it’s given me a tool box to choose different players. At our level, especially, we’ve been able to lose a couple of really high level players and persevere through that.”

While depth will undoubtedly play a large role in this game and the playoffs in general, there will be a few standouts on each team that the squad will turn to when the going gets tough. For Providence, they have a flock of players McGeachy believes could get the job done for them. “Art Santini, my captain, one of the younger guys. He’s come out stepped up and proved that they’ve made the right choice. Alex Meimarides he’s a utility forward, we use him in the second row, we use him in the back row, sometimes we throw him in at inside center. He’s been playing to his size.”  Jason Giroux the wily veteran was also singled out by McGeachy for his leadership and the cunningness he brings to the table with all of his experience.

For Charles River, there are a handful of players that came to mind for McVey ,“John Kelly at fullback has really stepped into a difficult role and been an absolute workman. Rob Mazzola at 13 has been critical. They are both some of those new guys and that depth we’ve been lucky to cling on to.” McVey also gave a nod to his captains, Tommy Murray, Pat Meade for their leadership and Corey Lang, their flyhalf who is out due to injury.

With each team having such a sound understanding for one another, there are not a lot of secrets kept between the two teams. They both know what they’ll have to do on the field in order to walk away with the win, but the game won’t just be won on the field, it will also test the mental strength of both teams. It will be a close game and while it may be hard to repeat the last minute dramatics that occurred in last year’s fixture, it will come pretty close.  

 

New England Men’s Division II Playoffs: Newport Rugby vs. Mystic Barbarians:

With the New England playoffs getting underway, one of the biggest rivalries in the area gets back underway, as Newport Rugby look to send the Mystic Barbarians tumbling out of the playoffs in the first round. When these two last met, Newport Rugby was able to control the conditions with greater efficiency than Mystic, and handed them a 32-25 loss. However, that was back in October and both teams have undoubtedly gone through a lot of change since then. One thing Newport will be hoping hasn’t changed is the form of their leading try scorer John Perotti, their wing. Over the course of their nine games in the fall, Perrotti averaged a try a game. Mystic has a wing with an insatiable thirst for the try line themselves, in Brian Patterson, who also crossed for nine tries in his fall campaign. With wet conditions forecast for the match, the backs may not have as much of an impact as the forwards do. If it comes down to the big men up front, expect a fierce battle between TJ Downey, from Mystic, and Christopher Sarro, for Newport. The two of them are masters at their trade and will look to dominate at scrum time. Expect a tightly fought game between the two sides, and one which will likely come down to a few pivotal moments.   

 

Florida Women’s Division II:  Fort Miami vs. Tampa Bay Krewe:

For the third time this year, and for the third time in a month, Fort Miami will take on the Tampa Bay Krewe, this time for the Florida title. The last two encounters have been split, in each instance the winner has had home ground advantage, which in this instance, puts Fort Miami as the favorites. However, if they are the favored team it is not by a large margin, as the last two games have been decided by an average margin of eight points. Lindsey Koren has been the catalyst offensively for Fort Miami, scoring 17 tries in only eight games. However, Koren is not the be all and end all of the team, as proven by Fort Miami’s ability to win their last game against the Krewe, without Koren scoring a try. The Krewe, will be relying on both Ruth and Samantha Black this weekend. Fort Miami has done a good job of containing them both in their last matches and will need to do so again if they want to win and keep their season alive.

 

Mid-Atlantic Women’s Division II South: Chesapeake Rugby vs. James River Rugby:

James River Rugby, finishes their regular season this weekend with a game against Chesapeake Rugby. This will be the second time this season the two teams face off against each other, on the first occasion James River, made full use of their home field advantage and were able to land a 32-19 victory. That encounter was closer than the score line suggests, with Chesapeake were within striking distance for most of the game, even enjoying the occasional lead. Victoria Byrd, James River’s fullback, was the difference in that game- scoring 17 of the team’s 32 points. Chesapeake will need to find an answer to shutting down this fierce fullback. James River cannot rest on their laurels either, as they will have to contend with closing down two hard running ball carriers, in Amanda Green and Brittany Jacobs. The inside center and number eight both are capable of denting the middle of the field and left to their own devices will have no hesitation in making teams pay the price. It will be a close game and one which will be a brutally physical encounter.

 

Mid-America Men’s Division III: Springfield Rugby vs. Sunday Morning:

In a battle of the Missouri heavyweights, Springfield Rugby and Sunday Morning will duke it out to determine who will advance to the Frontier Men’s Division III championship match. These two teams are evenly matched, as demonstrated by their first game this season, where Springfield mounted an extraordinary second half comeback to secure the win, 29-24. Flyhalf Christopher Thomas’ two tries were the spur for the win. Thomas has been instrumental to their efforts throughout the year and undoubtedly will be a major role player in this weekend’s encounter. Neither team had a particular easy go of it in their semifinals with the average margin of victory sitting at 7 points. They are both battle tested and both have shown they have tremendous resiliency within them. The one flaw they both share is an inability to close games out, or put in a different fashion, they take their foot off the gas late in games and let teams sneak back into contention. All of this is to say fitness could play a large role in who advances through to the next leg of the Frontier playoffs. If the game is still in the balance entering the final 20,  whoever executes under fatigue the best will walk away victorious.

 

Pacific South Men’s Division II: San Diego Old Aztecs vs. Las Vegas Irish:

In the Pacific South’s Division II semifinal, two of the most exciting teams in all of club rugby will take to the pitch once more. San Diego’s Old Aztecs last met Las Vegas’ Irish in the final week of the regular season. The Old Aztecs needed to win in order to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs, and until the 78th minute of the match they looked to have done just that. However, the Irish snuck in a try just before the fulltime siren handing the Old Aztecs their second loss of the season and the second seed to the playoffs. While the Irish may have the third seed next to their name, they could very well be seen as the favorites to win the whole thing, as they have beaten the top seed and second seed. Garnering a reputation as the giant killers. They have demonstrated an ability to win at home and away, so there will be no respite for the Old Aztecs in their preparations this week. Expect the Old Aztecs to come out with a chip on their shoulder and for both teams to play some scintillating rugby.