Midway through the Super League season, the New York Athletic Club is in a position to exert a stranglehold on the Eastern Conference with a victory against Old Blue Saturday.
At first glance, this seems to be an easy bet to win, as NYAC is 4-0, having already beaten Old Blue 34-10 on March 10, and Old Blue has won just one game out of four.
But it is a little more complicated than that. Old Blue may have won just the one game, but they tied another, and lost another by two points. Last-second kicks in their 27-25 loss to Life and their 40-40 tie with Dallas could have changed their record drastically had they gone over.
That’s all done with, but it does show that Old Blue can play, and NYAC Coach Bruce McLane is under no illusions.
“It is very difficult to play Old Blue at Baker Field,” McLane said. “They are within striking distance of Life in the standings, and they know that if they knock us off, they can make up those five. It is not easy to break Old Blue down. Their defense is very disciplined, and they have a very strong kicking game, so they will be very difficult.”
McLane was muted in his praise of his own team which is 4-0, he said, despite lacking some power, some speed, and some size. What AC does have in spades is teamwork. Their lineup hasn’t changed much and those players are playing well together. Lou Stanfill anchors a blue collar forward pack that has benefitted from Brian Doyle taking a big step forward in his game. Mike Petri is the scrumhalf and captain, and leads a backline that won’t blow you away, but will gladly let the ball do the talking.
“Our team’s relatively healthy, they all show up, they go to practice every night and they work hard,” said McLane. “We are good at everything, but great at lineouts. We’re in a tough position in this game because Old Blue will be motivated to put this season on its head. However, in the event we can keep the tempo of the game up and we can keep the tempo moving forward, and the backs and forward work together, we have success in the lineout, and take advantage of their mistakes, we can give Old Blue some trouble, too.
Life University visits Dallas in Big D in a game the Running Eagles are expected to take. However, Dallas has tied both their most recent home games. If they come away with a victory, and Old Blue at least claims a couple of bonus points against the AC, then 2nd place is completely up for grabs with three weeks remaining.
Meanwhile Denver visits Chicago in a game that basically will say which team still has a shot at a playoff position.
Chicago beat Denver 45-35 in Denver on March 17. That is the Griffins’ only win so far. If they win again, at 2-2 they have a shot at catching SFGG for 2nd. A win by Denver puts them back in the hunt, but barely.