You are here
A New York resurgence, the beast in the east, and a four-headed Midwest monster highlighted the 2016-2017 USA DI Club Rugby fall season. The 2015 DI Champion, the New York Athletic Club, rebounded from a 5-5 record in the American Rugby Premiership/Atlantic North last season to an undefeated 8-0 mark this fall knocking off Old Blue, Mystic River, and Life in the process. Repeating its performance from last season, Rocky Gorge has dominated the Mid-Atlantic with 7-0 record while amassing remarkable offensive and defensive totals. Lastly in the Midwest, six standing points separate four teams atop the conference as Metropolis leads the pack.
In the Atlantic North, NYAC returned to form and was determined from the start to recapture the DI Championship. With eight consecutive victories, NYAC has proven that it is back and reloaded for a deep National Playoff run.
Old Blue is in second at 6-2 with its only two losses coming to its cross-town rival by a combined 11 points. NYAC won the early October meeting at Travers Island, 19-13, with four penalties by flyhalf Harry Bennett. In the rematch at Randall's Island, NYAC completed the sweep, 30-25, despite a late second half surge by Old Blue.
After winning the DI National Championship in June, Mystic River has had a target on its back all fall and finished in third place at 4-4. After sweeping the Boston teams, the Malden Marauders played NYAC and Old Blue tight in its first three games before getting blown out 56-17 by NYAC in the final match of the year.
Head coach Mike Quinn attributed NYAC’s success to the strength of its forwards and overall team depth. “In the big games against Old Blue and Mystic, our forwards really stood up and took control of the games. We have the depth where we can get guys to give us 100% for 50 minutes and replace them with someone just as good... We have strength and depth up front to lay the platform for us to control the game and that’s why we’re unbeaten.”
Discussing the tough competition in the Atlantic North, Quinn said, “There is not a lot between Mystic, Old Blue, and NYAC in terms of talent, ability, and how they play the game. Old Blue is very forwards, kick, and pressure orientated, Mystic plays a very expansive game mostly with their backs, and NYAC is stuck in the middle as we can mix it with anyone’s pack, but we also have the backline to spin it wide as well.”
The spring schedule in the Atlantic North has yet to be finalized, but each club will be ready for the challenge.
After storming through the Mid-Atlantic last season, Rocky Gorge repeated history this fall with devastating results. Gorge is undefeated once again and rocked its opponents for every possible standing point in the conference. The Pittsburgh Harlequins (5-3) trail the leader by ten points and the Norfolk Blues and the Schuylkill River Exiles and Pittsburgh are tied for third with identical 4-3-1 tallies.
Frontrunner Rocky Gorge has put up some gaudy numbers this fall leading the nation in points scored and points allowed. The Maryland club scored 447 points for an average of 63 points a game, while limiting their opponents to 13 points per match. After making the DI National Quarterfinals and ultimately losing to Old Blue in May, Gorge recruited talent and depth over the offseason and refined the ability already on the roster.
“We are executing our game plan with minimal mistakes and penalties,” Rocky Gorge head coach Nick DiMichele said. “Our backs have proven to be very dangerous and score fast from anywhere in the field... We are more efficient than last year. We added some new players and this year, they are clicking and finding their groove.
The real strength of Gorge is in the defense. “Our defense is strong,” DiMichele added. “Our pack is very physical. Everyone is working the system and making their one on ones.”
Pittsburgh has impressed this fall, especially at home beating both Norfolk and Schuylkill River. The Harlequins will need to fix their road game in the spring to compete for the title losses to Potomac and Baltimore-Chesapeake have blemished their record.
After a 4-1 start to open the season, Norfolk lost two straight before tying Schuylkill River to end the fall. Joining the Blues in third place, Schuylkill is one game above 0.500 with five bonus tries and slim bonus loss to Norfolk, 36-34, back in September.
Play in the Mid-Atlantic resumes in late March with Rocky Gorge at Schuylkill River and Pittsburgh at Norfolk. The Harlequins, Blues and Exiles have major ground to make up to catch the conference leader. Along with its regular division opponents in the spring, Gorge hopes to compete against a couple of ARP foes to bolster its experience prior to Nationals.
After 12 weeks of action, the Midwest is wide open with no clear favorite as each club has taken turns beating up on one another. Four teams are clumped together at the top of the standings separated by only six points.
Despite a 6-5 record, last year’s conference champion, Metropolis, is in first by scoring a bonus try in each match and picking up a bonus loss in four of its defeats. A consistent offense has made up for defensive lapses as the Minneapolis club has been competitive in each contest this year.
When asked about the parity and strength of the Midwest this season, Metropolis head coach Nate Osborne responded, “It’s very strong right now. I’d say it is the best it has been in the eight years I’ve been here. Anyone can win on any given week. Young players coming through the high school or college programs are helping each team in the area.”
The two teams hailing from Chicago, the Griffins and the Lions, both have seven wins apiece and have 37 and 33 points, respectively. Joining the seven win club and currently tied with the Griffins for second is the surprise of the season, Columbus.
After ending the 2015 campaign with a 5-9 record, Columbus has improved dramatically to 7-3. The Ohio club led the conference for a good part of the fall with big wins over Metropolis, Kansas City, the Lions, and splitting its games against the Griffins.
This season’s success has been years in the making for Columbus as hard work and determination has shown through this year. The infectious prosperity of Columbus’s 7s program, 1823, has bled through to 15s this season.
“We made huge strides from last year,” said Philip Payne, head coach at Columbus. “We are certainly proud of that. We see talent across all of the teams, and the majority of them are very well coached. I am proud of the rugby product we put on the field each week.”
With five weeks left in the spring, the Midwest is up for grabs. Each club from top to bottom is capable of emerging as the victor in any contest. Bonus points will be paramount in each match as the conference champion will be determined in May.