Infinity Park, Glendale, Colo. – Glendale RFC (GRFC) will take on Palmer Chiropractic College (PCC) in the second semi final match of the USA Senior Men’s Division I National Club Championships this Saturday, June 3, 2012 at Infinity Park in Glendale.
While GRFC is the reigning DI National Champions, PCC’s recent championship track record is not to be ignored. At the 2010 DI national championship, they finished in 4th place and in 2011, they finished in 3rd place. If this was a horse race, chances are they would go into the race as firm favorites. However, Glendale RFC is no stranger to being in the final four having beaten Olympic Rugby Club in the 2011 championship final, 20-15. At the 2008 National Championship, GRFC finished runners-up to Life University, 14-15.
Glendale will be entering the championship with 10 squad members from the team who won the championship last year. They know the sweet taste of victory and are hungry for it again. However, recent injuries in the squad of crucial players, is a concern for the coaching staff. Captain and No. 8, Nic Johnson has been sidelined with a head injury while center Ata Malifa recently underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle. Loose forward stalwart Mike Kenyon, suffered a broken leg in the Round of 16 and has had to undergo surgery too. Another blow to GRFC’s injury woes was the relocation of loose forward and USA Eagles player, Ryan Chapman, to Minnesota for career reasons.
“The loss of these key players caused a shifting in our backs and forwards but we purposely played a number of players throughout the season in the event players became unavailable,” commented Director of Rugby for GRFC, Mark Bullock. “We are able to do this because we have a quality squad of 28 players and we have attempted to prepare them to play regardless of the situation.”
Questions have recently been raised in the rugby press about the size of GRFC’s forwards and going into the championships this weekend, the feeling is that GRFC will be fielding the smallest forwards in the DI final four. However Bullock has a different take on this theory.
“We actually don’t think we are small,” commented a bemused Bullock, “Our forwards are not massively sized, but they are very mobile and very solid runners and passers of the ball so we are able to play an expansive 15-man running rugby style.”
Bullock went on to say, “With only ten members on this squad that played in last year’s National Championship, we had to blend the new players and old into a cohesive unit. The players have adapted well and have worked hard to master the very skill oriented game we attempt to play.
“Hooker Stan Moaalii has had a massive season and has been improving by the week. We believe he is a national caliber player that the USA Eagles should be considering for national team duties in the future.
“In the backs, Tyler Siegel from Regis University has taken over the kicking duties and has had a huge impact in our back line attack. This is his first season playing club rugby and he has made the transition from university level rugby to the men’s game seamlessly.
Our biggest surprise has been the development of some of our newer/younger players such as Iniki Fa’amusili (USA U20 players), Sam Botkin, former quarterback at Eastern Oregon College, and Bryan Evans. In addition lock Colby Knepp took last season off and his return has made a big impact defensively in the lineouts and in attack with ball in hand.”
Regardless of injuries and size, Glendale RFC are up for the challenge and with the young talent that the squad has at it’s disposal, Bullock is confident that his team possesses the qualities, experience, skill and fitness levels to compete with the other quality teams in the final four.