Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
It was another great weekend in the USA Rugby Super League as the clubs returned to playing within their conference. With as many as twelve RSL clubs in the playoff hunt, many of which were playing each other this past weekend… Week 6 had the makings of a great weekend of rugby action.
We’ll start off in the Red Conference this week. With five of the six clubs in the playoff hunt, every single match was a big one. The big one was San Francisco Golden Gate beating Belmont Shore on the road 27-17. This was a must win for SFGG and they took care of business against a Belmont Shore team that had been on a roll. Even more importantly, Belmont Shore was denied a bonus point which has made the Red Conference race even tighter. Denver defended their home turf well and came away with a 36-19 win over Santa Monica. Flyhalf, Link Wilfley converted 4 of 5 tries and added a penalty kick to help lead Denver. In the process, Denver (4-1, 20pts) has leapfrogged Belmont Shore (3-2, 17pts) and retaken their place at the top of the Red Conference. OMBAC also took care of business with a possession dominated 45-17 road win over Old Puget. OMBAC were led by Todd Clever and Tui Osborne who score two tries apiece. Now, only five points separate the 1st and 5th place clubs in the Red Conference. This race is going all the way to the finish too. This weekend will see Santa Monica hosting Belmont Shore in what will be a must win for both clubs. Belmont Shore may be able to survive a loss, but with their last match against a surging OMBAC, they won’t want to back their way into that one. As for OMBAC, they host the Red Conference leaders, Denver Barbarians in yet another great looking matchup. With hosting Old Puget in Week 8, a win by Denver against OMBAC could almost seal up the conference for them. After their big win this past weekend, SFGG hosts Old Puget and will not want a letdown. They’ll need to look for the win and a bonus point to keep pace and their playoff hopes alive. The math is pretty simple for each of these clubs… win your last two matches and they’ll be in the playoffs. Unfortunately, they all play each other and someone is going to lose.
The White Conference isn’t nearly as muddled as the Red Conference, but there are still big matches in the next couple of weeks for some of the clubs that will determine whether they reach the playoffs or not. As expected, NYAC took care of business with a 34-22 win over Dallas. It wasn’t a cakewalk though as they trailed Dallas 17-12 going into half. NYAC got 14 points out of center, Luke Milton, who scored a try, had 3 conversions, and added a penalty. NYAC now has a strong lead in the White Conference and could clinch 1st place in the White Conference this weekend. Check that… the Loins play Washington and should get an easy bonus point, thus keeping NYAC from clinching 1st place. The biggest match of the weekend in the conference was the Chicago Lions 18-17 win over the Boston Irish Wolfhounds. On a two game skid, the Lions hit the road to face the rested Wolfhounds and came away with a huge win. Another loss would have most likely put them out of the playoff hunt. With Washington this weekend, the Lions will be circling the Week 8 match against NYAC as a possible winner-takes-all 1st place match. For the Wolfhounds, the loss was a blow to their playoff hopes. A win would have been a huge boost, but they still have hope. The final match of the weekend had Philly-Whitemarsh comeback from a 22-3 halftime deficit to defeat Washington 29-27 in the only match of the season either club had a hope to win. Jason Stanton scored two tries for Philly-Whitemarsh to help lead the comeback. Both Philly-Whitemarsh and Washington will have a lot of work to do as the season comes to a close. Looking ahead for the White Conference this coming weekend, the only big match on tap will have the Irish Wolfhounds traveling to Dallas in a must win match for both clubs. The loser of the match will most likely be eliminated from the playoff race. Both NYAC and the Lions should win easily as they face off against Philly-Whitemarsh and Washington this coming weekend. A bonus point win for NYAC should lock them up a playoff slot.
With 1st place on the line, Boston hit the road and came back to Beantown with a big 45-31 win over Charlotte. For two clubs that have played relatively low scoring and defensive rugby this season, the combined 76 points was the biggest surprise of the entire weekend for me. The win puts Boston in the driver’s seat as their two remaining matches are both at home against beatable opponents. The road for Charlotte isn’t as easy as they are on the road for their last two matches. The Chicago Griffins have been lying in 3rd place nearly all season, but their time to strike is now. With their 34-10 win over PAC this weekend, they are just a few points behind Charlotte. In St. Louis, the Bombers finally got into the win column with a 23-15 victory over Old Blue. Both clubs are out of playoff contention, but have a chance to play spoiler over the next couple of weeks. Out of all of the clubs eliminated from contention in the RSL, these are the two with the best chance to screw up someone else’s season. Coming up this weekend in the Blue Conference, the big one has to be the Griffins hosting Charlotte. The loser of the match may need some help getting into the playoffs. Boston hosts St. Louis in what should be a tighter match than one would expect. Another win for Boston will put them in excellent position to make the playoffs. The final Blue Conference match of the weekend has Old Blue, on the road, looking for their first win against PAC who has struggled of late.
Again, another great week of action in the RSL. It would have been great to be able to see some of these matches… hint, hint… USA Rugby… post the match videos for us. The match reports are also coming in slowly to the RSL website, so I don’t have stats from the weekend as of yet.