The most potential for upset in any Round of 32 cross-territorial competition? The Pacific Coast against Southern California, where heavyweight clubs slug it out for the right to advance to Chula Vista, Calif.
Old Mission Beach Athletic Club, owners of more national title trophies than any other club, will host Olympic Club, a rival for most-storied club on the West Coast, if not the country. The Winged-O hasn’t had to travel for a round of 32 since the format was introduced in 2010, but they’ll make the trip to San Diego Saturday.
Asked if he thought he got a tough first-round draw, having to play the 2011 National runners-up in the first round, OMBAC coach Eugene Mountjoy said:
“Every game in playoffs is a tough game, because you have to have respect for every opponent. I respect the O-Club and their traditions. Very well coached, very good team and structures. If it’s the O-Club, if it’s whoever we’re playing, we’ve got to respect them and just play according to what we’ve been doing all the whole season. It’s that simple. You have to do things right at playoffs. You only have one chance.”
Olympic Club’s lineup boasts several big names, Like Keegan Engelbrecht, Dustin Muhn and Kort Schubert. Mountjoy says he’s aware of their weapons.
“We’ve done our homework on certain aspects of their play. I’m not going to go into cerain things. Rugby is a team game, so we have to focus on what those individuals have been doing in their team systems. We have a plan for every game,” he said.
Another seemingly tough match-up pits Belmont Shore against the Sacramento Lions in Southern California. Both advanced to the quarterfinals last year before being bounced by eventual finalists O-Club and Glendale. Belmont hosts as the champs of SoCal, while the Lions just squeaked into the playoffs as the fourth seed out of the Pacific Coast.
“We know they finished fourth, but they were in second just two weeks ago,” Belmont coach Ray Egan said of the Lions.
Belmont Shore has a heavy Polynesian influence, perhaps more so than any other team in Southern California. The Lions are predominantly Polynesian.
“I suppose the difference might be that our Polynesian guys tend to be in our back row and our backs. Whereas, a lot of the teams that we come up against with a big Polynesian influence tend to have quite a number of it in their front five. It’s a big challenge, obviously, because they’re big boys, and they’re tough,” said Egan.
“Big teams like this, there’s a couple of ways you go after them. One of them is you work on controlling the ball, and then field position. Trying to keep them out of our third of the pitch would be a big focus for us. Because they are very dangerous when they get inside our 22, because they have good ball retention and big ball carriers.”
Maybe the most intriguing match in this quartet features Santa Monica and the Utah Brothers, Utah coach Tim Lewis is facing his old club in Santa Monica.
The Brothers have seemingly played well in their abbreviated season, having put 24 points on defending champs Glendale and beaten Provo a couple of times. However, the Brothers also gave up 56 points to the Raptors. Santa Monica is a running club that has the ability to score points. The crux of the match will be how much ball Santa Monica can get, and whether or not they can consistently tackle the Brothers.
In the fourth match of this series, the Las Vegas Blackjacks, just two years removed from a National Title run, are making the trip to the Bay Area to take on the East Palo Alto Bulldogs, who won Northern California just one year after splitting from the EPA Razorbacks.