You are here
The landscape of the Division II Men’s Club Rugby has dramatically changed as only 16 of the 32 teams from last year’s National Playoffs have returned in 2016. Of the eight clubs who advanced to the quarterfinals last season, only three have made it to the opening round. The last team in the field still left to have won a DII National Championship was the New Haven Old Black back in 2002. It’s time for a new champion to be crowned, it’s just a matter of who will take it.
With four teams graduating to the DI ranks (Rocky Gorge, Life West, ORSU, and Snake River), which includes three of the last four National Champions, the door is wide open for a new victor. Also not returning is the 2016 National finalist and 2013 Champion, Wisconsin, who lost in the Midwest quarterfinals to the Cleveland Crusaders, 31-27. A couple of spots are still to be decided, but will this be the year that Tempe or Wilmington finally gets their crown or will a upstart get that title shot.
In the Pacific North, the Portland Pigs edged the Bend Roughriders, 20-19, to represent to the Pacific Northwest in the round 16 and the Sacramento Capitals blew out the Vacaville Old Dogs, 65-15, in Northern California. Portland and Sacramento face off on May 16th for the entrance to the quarterfinals.
Two new teams in Southern California have emerged in the Huntington Beach Unicorns and Ventura Country Outlaws. The winner of SoCal will battle the Tempe Old Devils, who have already beaten the Red Mountain Warthogs, 31-13. Tempe made the semifinals last season and was a finalist in 2014. The Old Devils are a favorite to return to the finals once again.
In the Frontier Conference, the results of this weekend’s Denver Harlequins at Boulder match will determine the round of 32 contests. If Boulder wins, it will take over the No. 1 seed in the Rocky Mountains and play the St. Louis Bombers and the Provo Steelers play the Omaha Goats. If Boulder loses, the match-ups will be flipped.
The Red River Conference may be the only geographic region to return all four clubs to Nationals from last year. The Austin Blacks, Little Rock Stormers, and Houston United are the division leaders and if the Dallas Reds can beat Austin this weekend, it will qualify as the wildcard. If Austin wins, Tulsa takes the wildcard. After Saturday, the seedings will be determined and play on May 7th.
The Detroit Tradesmen is the only team to back from the Midwest after going undefeated. The second place club from the West, the Eastside Banshees, will play Detroit, while the South Side Irish plays the Cleveland Crusaders. Detroit is poised to make an impact in this year’s tournament.
Charlotte and Chattanooga are back in the Southern Conference Playoffs as last season’s quarterfinalist, the Atlanta Old White, didn’t qualify. The undefeated Miami Tridents won Florida and will play True South winner Chattanooga. Carolinas-Georgia champ, Charlotte, take on the wildcard, Nashville.
The New England Rugby Football Union representative will be decided this weekend as the Mystic Barbarians host Portland and Newport travels to Amoskeag. On Sunday, the victors battle for the NERFU title and then the chance play the Empire. The New Haven Old Black and the Village Lions will play this Saturday to determine the Empire Champion. A potential New Haven versus Mystic match will be interesting.
Finally, with Rocky Gorge moving up to DI, the Richmond Lions and Wilmington have stepped up in the Mid-Atlantic to fill the void. The Lions were narrowly beaten by Wilmington in last season’s conference semifinals and are poised to meet again in this year’s final. Richmond will first have to get through DIII MAC Champ, Old Gaelic. On the other side, Wilmington, a National Finalist three years ago, will play Philadelphia-Whitemarsh in the semifinals.