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The playoff race in Florida is extremely tight, and Tampa Krewe’s 34-23 defeat of first-place Miami Saturday sets up an important match this weekend. The top four teams in Florida at the end of the regular season will play in a four-team playoff, with the winner advancing to the NCR2 semifinals.
Tampa’s win over previously unbeaten Miami sees the 2010 National Champions tied with Boca Raton for the last playoff spot with three weeks to play. Saturday, Tampa travels to Boca Raton.
“We’ve come to the realization that it’s one game at a time, and it’s win or go home, and that’s the kind of mentality we’ve taken on,” said Tampa coach Dan Slagle. “We can’t worry about what’s happened in the past or what’s going on in two weeks.”
Without the upset of Miami, the Krewe would be fighting uphill to get into the postseason. But Tampa rallied to avenge the 27-point loss in Miami earlier in the season.
“Miami, the first time we played the Bumblebees, they took it to us early, physically, and really dictated the game. We let them get in our heads,” said Slagle.
“I think we were prepared this last time playing them knowing they were going to come out and be physical, and I think we basically beat them to it. We didn’t let them dictate the game playing in the forwards as much as they like to play, and we took advantage of our athleticism in the back line.”
The Krewe won the National Championship in 2010, were runners-up in 2011, played 2012 in DI and were banned from the playoffs in 2013 for opting out of DI without being relegated. Like it has with so many clubs, forced promotion took its toll on Tampa. In the last two years, the Krewe experienced a lot of turnover, both with players and coaches, and saw its standard of play suffer.
Now, though, the club is back in pretty good shape with numbers and fighting to keep playoff hopes alive.
“There’s very, very little fall off in play when our reserves come on, and that’s something that made that 2010 club successful,” said Slagle.
“You replace your locks with two guys coming off the bench and they’re as good and with fresh legs 60 minutes into it, it makes a hell of a difference. And that’s what we’re starting to see now, that our reserves are really contributing and keeping us still playing very good rugby late in the match.”
Krewe’s most high-profile players is former High School All American Charlie Hutchings. He’s been groomed as a scrumhalf, but is now playing No. 10 for Tampa.
“Extremely dynamic,” said Slagle describing Hutchings. “He plays what he sees. For as small as he is, he’s a very, very good defensive flyhalf, and he can see something and communicate what he sees in order to allow the backline to take advantage of it.”