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Saturday, April 27, 2024

College Rugby at its Finest (ft. John Fitzpatrick of Rugby Morning)


The 2024 CRC's did not disappoint. A uniquely American tournament format featured a "win and advance" style of bracket, and the excitement that came with the high stakes was exhilarating. 

Premier Division - 

1st Place: Wheeling 

Back in January, Aaron Juma and Joe Iye led the Great Lakes NCR all star team to a cup final in Round Rock Texas. The two players dominance continued this weekend as Wheeling blew through their Saturday & Sunday competition. Juma is ready for the next level, and should be considered for a PR 7's contract this summer.

With 10 players from Zimbabwe and South Africa coach Michael Geibel shows he can recruit internationals aplenty, fielding an extremely competitive collegiate side. Will the college game ever have a cap on internationals? For now it comes down to how many scholarships you have and how hard you're willing to recruit.

2nd Place: Kutztown

At just 5'7", 155lbs, Chris Cleland is once again in dominant form. Last year's tournament MVP for Mount St. Mary's is now suiting up for the Kutztown Bears and showing size doesn't really matter in 7's. The flyer is excellent at stretching defenses in open space, just gassing teams off scrum set piece. Would winning back to back championships with two different schools be a first for the new age "transfer portal" collegiate era?

Kutztown fielded a team with an English / American blend. Four players from England and one from Scotland mix with American recruits from Pennsylvania and Georgia. The Kutztown program has been elite for the better part of a decade and won the entire tournament in 2022.

3rd Place: Babson

First of, let's just take a step back and realize that Babson (a small college) moved from the small college division ALL THE WAY up to the Premier bracket. That's a massive leap in competition, but they never flinched and clearly belong with the top competition. 

Brice Muller stands out at 6'6" 230 lbs, the Fairfield Prep grad has had as big of an impact on a program that a freshman can provide. A pivotal part of Babson's small college XV's championship, he can do it all. Run, pass, tackle, lineout ... he's a jack of all trades and will surely be a force for Babson in his next 3 years.

4th Place: ICCC 

Dubbed "The United States of Iowa Central" for the weekend, coaches Brent Nelson and Joe Lippert have built a mid-west monster in Fort Dodge Iowa. The Tritons have gotten better year after year and the program's success shows that you don't need a large group of alumni boosters to build a successful program. 

The majority of their scoring was done by Hlanga Mbela who was carving up defenses throughout the weekend. Noah Champion & Koen Webb created an impact running hard and straight earning the front foot in attack, while the skipper Matt Surles-Davis was ice cold in defense as he chopped down large ball runners all weekend .

Division 1 - Louisville blanks North Carolina State 29-0

Division 2 - Maine stuns Georgetown at the death 19-15

Small College - Slippery Rock beats St. Thomas 19-12

In the end, it was an exhilarating Friday and Saturday for the tournament. The women round out the championship rounds on Sunday and hopefully the event will be just as spectacular next year.

Special thanks for John Fitzpatrick of Rugby Morning for hopping on the show.


Friday, March 22, 2024

If The West Is The Best, Then Who Is The Best In The West?

So far there have only been FOUR inter-conference games through 3 weeks. 

Utah beat Chicago 29-15. In Salt Lake, at altitude. They ran away from a close first half.

Seattle beats Miami 29-18. Miami on the road, new vs. old. This was expected.

Houston beat Miami 30-19. Miami looks good, Houston looks better ... but again this was expected.

Dallas throttled Anthem 68-28. Is this a one-off, or a trend? Is Dallas lethal, or is Anthem just defenseless?

A mere 4 games is not enough for a trend line, but enough for the ridiculous headline ... The West has been better (straight up!). No denying the early results ... but will the trend hold? That would be unlikely. If it does, we'll see a severely wounded Eastern conference team limp into the QF's with the #4 seed come July.

Some Old Faces in New Places

With the battle of the two remaining undefeated teams (Seattle vs. Houston) looming, let's look into the past to try and predict the future. 

Here's Seattle vs. Houston head to head since 2018 (and it's not even close ...)

2018 - Seattle beats Houston 20-7 at Dyer Stadium.

2019 - Seattle defends home turf with a 27-14  at Star Fire.

         - Seattle smacks Houston 52-10 at the new SaberCats Stadium.

2020 - 3/4's of the season cancelled, teams did not play.

2021 - Houston finally draws first blood with a 30-24 win at home in Week 1.

         - Seattle fires back three months later with a 40-21 win in Week 18.

2022 - Houston wins at home 21-19.

         - Seattle fireworks come alive back home, 43-36 win.

         - Seattle beats Houston handily in the Western Conference Final 64-27 in Texas. 

2023 - Seattle wins 24-12 in Tukwila.

         - Seattle wins 34-17 in Houston.

         - Seattle wins Quarter Final 37-26 in Houston.

It's almost like the throttling in the 2022 Western Conference Final was a back breaker for Houston. Since then, they haven't settled the score, with the total historic record favoring Seattle 9-2. But does history always predict future outcomes? When picking games, Never EVER, say the words "always" or "never". We do know 1 thing though, whoever wins tonight will be the Best in the West. Until the West is Bested.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Free Jacks Tripped and Fell


Was this little shirt tug from Quattrin what set Robertson off? ... Old Glory stuns the Champs.

After winning 14 straight, the defending champs lost at the death in their home opener against rival Old Glory D.C. Jason Robertson was clutch down the stretch and drilled the game winning kick with no time on the clock. It was truly a game winning conversion (they were down 1, not tied), and it silenced a rowdy crowd in Quincy. Not only did Robertson's boot come up clutch, but he facilitated just about all of their tries (as a good fly-half does). 

This shakes up the "Power Structure" on the Eastern Front (see below). It's going to take more than 1 (1 point) loss to dethrone New England. They've been on a tear, and deserve the benefit of the doubt ... for now. After just 2 weeks (and not nearly enough rugby to make an informed decision), here's the current outlook.

1. NEFJ - one loss won't shake 14 straight wins.

2. NOLA - they've started hot before, but can they stay hot?

3. OGDC - after a week 1 dud, they delivered big on the road.

4. CHICAGO - ran out of oxygen up in Utah.

5. MIAMI - it wasn't "pretty in pink" up in Seattle.

6. ANTHEM - Still just a feel good story as of now.

Special thanks to Bozo6 from the Jack's Rangers who came on the to talk everything FreeJacks.


Saturday, March 9, 2024

Utah Warriors #UnleashYourInnerWarrior

Historical Record:

Week 1 Result: 22-15 loss to Houston

Skinny: The Utah Warriors have always been an MLR staple. There's no prettier backdrop than the snow kissed mountains just west of Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman Utah. The Warriors will be missing legend Lance Williams as he pursues Olympic dreams with the Eagle 7's, but they won't lack veteran leadership. Paul Lasike and Angus McClellan return, and the grandstands in Utah will be begging for a home playoff game come July. Have you Unleashed Your Inner Warrior?