It has come down to this. One weekend in Rugbytown, USA (Glendale, Colo) to determine who will raise the trophy as the best club in the nation. Many have taken this journey, but only a selective few are still remaining.
In Division III, New Orleans will take on Tucson and South Bay will face Philadelphia-Whitemarsh.
This is NOLA’s, at least their B side's, first trip to the national championships, so the nervous energy will be lingering. However, after beating Virginia and Cleveland to get to the semis, their confidence is very high riding into Colorado.
Having a plethora of teammates and coaches with experience in not only being in the tournament, but winning it all last year certainly helps.
“Having one of the best teams in the nation to practice against is a huge plus for our boys and getting to see what the competition is like,” New Orleans coach Trip McCormack said. “Having a great traveling fan base doesn’t hurt either.”
For the Tucson Magpies, the road has been challenging, but a blessing nonetheless. Coming into the tournament as the third seed out of Southern California put West region power Wichita and Kansas City in their path to Colorado. Leaving many to think of them as an after-thought.
“We loved that going into the tournament,” Tucson’s John Rouff said. “We definitely had some concerns going into the game and the guys carried that throughout the first half. However, we settled into a groove and, in the end, played quality rugby.”
With the two well-earned wins over Wichita (25-10) and over Kansas City (57-13), they have a lot of positives to go off. But, like NOLA, this is will be the club’s first trip to the Final Four and the first look at any of the teams. So you can only imagine what the Magpies might be going through at this point.
“We’ve got some experienced players, but a lot of the guys on our team have only been playing for a few years,” Rouff said. “That being said, there are a lot of unknowns going into the weekend so we are only going to control what we can and try not to beat ourselves.”
In the second match-up, Philly-Whitemarsh (PW) will battle it out against the South Bay Rhinos in what should be an intriguing game.
The Rhinos finished third in the last year’s national championship run losing in the semis to eventual national champion Metropolis. South Bay, playing out of Southern California, earned the number one seed in the regional tournament and has taken that momentum into the national tournament.
PW is rolling into the tournament on a well-timed hot streak. Having taken the Mid-Atlantic top seed by beating Virginia in the last minute 37-32, they have since the run the table against Syracuse (Northeast #1) and Gainesville (South #2) by a combined 66-35.
Matching the two squads, PW is more about finesse compared to a forward-oriented game plan that a physical Rhino team brings to the table.