Santa Rosa alone is carrying the Northern California torch to Glendale this year. If you include the Super League, Northern California has had at least two teams represented in the semifinals of the men’s club playoffs four of the last five seasons.
Coming from a region that regards itself as the nation’s rugby hotbed, it’s important to Santa Rosa they uphold that reputation.
“We feel there’s more pressure on us because of that,” said Santa Rosa coach Alan Petty. “We feel there’s pretty good rugby out here, and the other teams all got popped, so we’re it right now.”
Santa Rosa nearly got popped a couple of times this postseason. Perhaps no one has navigated a tougher road to Glendale.
They beat ORSU by just 12 in the Pacific Coast semis, Snake River by six in the final, 2010 runners-up Albuquerque by two in the Round of 16 and West champs Omaha by 13 in the national quarterfinal for an average postseason winning margin of just 8.5.
Snake River went on to nearly make the semifinals, too, but wound up on the wrong end of a four-overtime thriller against the San Diego Old Aztecs.
“Our guys have played in a tough rugby game or two,” Petty commented, and his guys have come through that gauntlet largely healthy. The coach said every player who he’d want to take to Glendale is healthy enough to play, if not at full strength.
Petty also says he’s done his homework on Rocky Gorge, who Santa Rosa faces in the semifinal, and that his team is as prepared as it can be. In addition to scouting Rocky Gorge, Petty’s talked to the folks at Fresno and SFGG, who have represented NorCal, and lost their first games, in the DII final four the last two years, to find out what to expect in self-dubbed "Rugbytown, USA".
“They were beat by better teams, any body who gets to the final four, they’re a great rugby team. We’ve got to bring our A-team both matches,” he said.s
“We know what (Rocky Gorge’s) strengths and weaknesses are. Everybody has a plan, as Mike Tyson used to say, until they get punched in the nose. We’ll see how we are once we get punched in the nose.”