For rugby fans that will be in the Cheswick, Pa or Chula Vista, Calif area this weekend, there will be some incredible action. The Round of 16 will take place at Founders Field (Pa) and the Olympic Training Facility (Calif) at either location with the best club teams that Division III in the nation.
At Founders Field, one bracket will consist of four matches; Virginia v. South Regional Champ New Orleans and Midwest champion Cleveland Rovers against New London
In the other bracket, Northeast champion Syracuse will go against St. Paul, while Mid-Atlantic champion Philadelpia-Whitemarsh will matchup with Gainesville.
In the east, the Cleveland Rovers are on a tear. Having breezed through their spring schedule outscoring opponents 372-76, they fought through the Midwest Region and earned the first seed by beating the St. Paul Jazz Pigs 84-0.
New London County comes in as a formidable opponent coming out of the Northeast region as the number two seed only behind Syracuse. N.L. comes into the tournament with an 8-1 record with their only loss being to Syracuse and has come on strong as of late.
“We finished off our season well against a strong and physical MIT squad.” N.L. coach Pearce Mara said. “Our only loss was a confidence builder and tells us if we play our brand of rugby, nobody can beat us, but us.”
New Orleans is coming into the tournament undefeated and confident. Having won the always competitive DIII South region, NOLA is making their first appearance to the tournament to the DIII side, and also had their DI team in the Round of 32 (they lost to the Chicago Lions). Coaches Jerry Malina and Trip McCormack say having battled teammates and a great fan base are a big plus.
“Putting these guys against, what we think, is the best DI squad in the country is definitely a leg up on the competition,” McCormack said. “And with great fans that travel well, we really couldn’t ask for more. This weekend is going to be about putting pressure on the other team, playing smart rugby and having confidence will be key for us.”
Virginia is battle-tested and looking for blood after their last-second, 37-32 loss to Philadelpha (Philly)-Whitemarsh in the Mid-Atlantic region. Coincidentally, these two teams will have a rivalry when they take the pitch this weekend. NOLA’s Eric and Casey Mackintosh get to play against older brother Sean, Virginia’s inside centre.
In the second pool in the West, Budd Bay is against the K.C. Blues. Budd Bay is coming off a blowout win over Modesto 44-19 and is extremely confident. The Olympia, Wash.-based Buffaloes will be making the trip without a key player in Taylor Briscoe but have a no excuses mentality.
“Things outside of rugby happen, we will just have to adapt,” Bay captain Aaron Turcotte said. “We’ve heard that the Blues have a strong forward pack, but we will be prepared. I think our speed and stamina will be key in determining the outcome.”
The Blues have a lot on their plate coming into the tournament. Both their DI and DIII squads are in the tournament, so the stress level is very high. However, being a number three seed should give them more than enough fire to go out and prove they are a force.
The Wichita Barbarians come into the tournament as the top seed out of the West region. After handling foes like Kansas City and Northern State, the Barbarians are in full stride to make a big splash to try to advance to the next round.
The Tucson Magpies had a tough road getting into the tournament coming out of southern California. They are coming into the tournament as the third seed finishing behind the South Bay Rhinos and Sin City Irish. Nonetheless, the competition has made them one of the tougher lower seeds to deal with come game time.
Out in the West in Pool 1, Southern California winner and number one seed South Bay is the toughest contender. The Rhinos are coming off an 8-2 season and coming into the playoff picture on a hot streak. Head Coach Barry Williams has his team fine tuned for success and looking to build off their third place finish a year ago at Nationals.
Their opponent is Northern California team Modesto. Modesto has chip on their shoulder after losing to Budd Bay in the regional tournament. The road won’t be easy as powerhouse South Bay is the bracket favorite. However, according to player/coach Justin Keller, they feel they are up to the challenge.
Sin City is coming to the tournament on good terms. The Irish recently topped Beaumont to take the number two seed out of southern California and ready for any challenge that is presented to them. Their obstacle is Northern State.
Hailing from North Dakota, Northern State comes in out of the West region with a very high seed for them at #2. Northern State is feeling very confident after a fairly successful season and has a nothing to lose mentality going into the tournament.
In the second East pool, Philly-Whitemarsh will take on Gainesville. Philly is coming into the tournament riding a magic carpet after running the table in the Mid-Atlantic region and pulling of an upset of Virginia, Whitemarsh isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon with their momentum.
Gainesville will be looking to do just that. The Hogs are riding momentum after beating Montgomery to take Florida and losing only to NOLA in the regional final.
On the other pitch, St. Paul will take on Syracuse. The Pigs had a lot of confidence going into the Midwest region final, but were blown out by Cleveland are now looking out for revenge. But to do so, they will have to get past the Northeast number one seed, Syracuse.
The Chargers beat New London to take the top seed out of the Northeast region and know the competition they will face with a hungry team like St. Paul.