Men’s Club Rugby Predictions – True South Rugby Union Championships

True South Rugby Union

True South Championships (April 25 & 26)

The True South Rugby championships are back. It’s been a long season of battles that lead up to this point. Give you guys a close preview and prediction to this championship

#1 TS North: Chattanooga vs. #2 TS South: Birmingham

Chattanooga will be facing Birmingham in the semi-finals of the True South Championships. Chattanooga holds the #1 seed coming out of the True South North division with an undefeated record of 8-0 on the season. Birmingham will be entering the semi-finals with the #2 seed out of the True South South division with a 6-2 record on the season.

Chattanooga has been the grand favorite this year in the True South. They are the defending True South Champions and will be looking to repeat it again. Last year, Chattanooga’s season was cut short with a loss to Atlanta Old White in the Sweet 16. Chattanooga has come out this year even stronger than they were last year. Chattanooga is #1 in the union in scoring offense with 444 total points scored this season, and are #1 in scoring defense, allowing only 46 points on the season. Chattanooga has breezed through their matches this season. Has only trailed in the first half, in two games, both against Knoxville. Take away those matches, Chattanooga has not seen extended time trailing anyone.

Chattanooga vs. Atlanta Old White 2014; courtesy of Chattanooga Rugby Club
Chattanooga vs. Atlanta Old White 2014; courtesy of Chattanooga Rugby Club

Chattanooga scoring threat has been bolstered with one of the most efficient back lines in the Union. Chattanooga takes advantage of getting the ball to the Wings, where they have seen the most action. The strategy has made Korey Chambers and James Jones one of the most dangerous duos in the league. THe pair have scored 90 points in 18 tries over the course of this season. Chattanooga is as dangerous on the inside of the back line as they are on the outside. Flyhalf, Ricky Streeter  and inside center, Tom Snow. They add an additional 67 points and 13 tries to the powerful offense.

Birmingham facing Chattanooga will be a rematch of last years True South finals. The True South South division came down to them and Baton Rouge, and Baton Rouge was able to take the division this season. Birmingham enters into the True South Championships ranked #3 in scoring offense with 268 points, and #3 in scoring defense allowing 145 points. Birmingham has been dominate, but inconsistent this past year. While Birmingham has been capable of winning the matches that they were supposed to win, they have struggled late in the season. Birmingham has had an inability to really put game away late in the match. In both losses to Baton Rouge, Birmingham carries the lead into the second half of the game. In the first match against Baton Rouge, Birmingham was up 17-10, before being outscored 29-7 in the second half. In the second match against Baton Rouge, Birmingham was up 17-7 at half and lead as much as 20-7 before being outscored 24-7 late in the second half to lose 31-27. While one could make the argument that the losses were to the divisional champion, similar issues have been found against lower ranked teams. On March 28, in a winning effort against Montgomery, Birmingham had a quick lead on Montgomery in the first half, but were subsequently outscored 12-5 in the second half. Even in the second match against a 1 win Battleship team, on April 4th, Birmingham failed to put them away until the 65′ of the match. Two quick scores at the end of the match gave Birmingham the win over a 16-man roster.

Birmingham Rugby after facing Jackson on March 21; courtesy of Bobby Bela Smith
Birmingham Rugby after facing Jackson on March 21; courtesy of Bobby Bela Smith

Birmingham has a very experienced team that lords a deep roster of scorers. The top scorer for the Vulcans is first year player, Kwame Little. This former UAB star has put up 65+ points  this season with 13 tries. The wing has been the leading force of scoring on the edge for the Vulcans and has proved to be a very proficient weapon. Birmingham also totes one of the highest scoring scrumhalf’s in the Union in Benjamin Burgin. Burgin has scored 20 points this season on four tries. Has been an efficient lead in the distribution between the Forwards and Backs. Finally you cannot forget about the strength in the Forward line. Birmingham carries one of the biggest Forward packs. While they work well as a cohesive unit, you have to give credit to the front three, Marco Callowey, Zac Ronk, and Mark Barzal. This is an experience front three who have been to the playoffs multiple years in a row. They do provide a tremendous push in the scrum and are as good as anyone in the league.

When it comes down to this match, experience is not one component that is going to be missing in the equations. Both these teams have been here before, and understand how to step up their game level. When it comes down to it though, it’s going to be about the little things. Birmingham knows how to play tough and play their competition, but their issues in the second half have been detrimental all season. Chattanooga has been as dominate as ever, but it could be argued that they haven’t played any close games to this point, so their ability to gut it out might prove to be a weakness for them if Birmingham can keep it close. I do feel that when it comes down to it, the sheer dominance that Chattanooga has had this season, and a determination to make up for their loss against Atlanta Old White in the Sweet 16’s last year, will prove to give them the win in this match.

Baton Rouge win over Birmingham; courtesy of AL.com
Baton Rouge win over Birmingham; courtesy of AL.com

#1 TS South: Baton Rouge vs. #2 TS North: Nashville

Baton Rouge will be taking on Nashville in the True South Championship semi-finals. Baton Rouge enters into this match as the True South – South division champs with an 8-0 record. Nashville comes in as the True South – North division runner up. They ended the regular season with a 5-2-1 record.

Baton Rouge comes in as the True South Champion for the first time in the third year of the formation of the union. Baton Rouge entered into this season, coming off the True South semi-final loss to Chattanooga. Baton Rouge is ranked #4 in the Union in scoring offense with 226 points, and #2 in scoring defense allowing only 137 points. Baton Rouge has consistently improved as the season has progressed. They have become more proficient on offense where they started the first three games averaging 23 points per game, to ending their last 4 games averaging 39.2 point per game. While Baton Rouge has seen improvement in their scoring throughout the season, the defense has been the strongest area for Baton Rouge. Their ability to dampen offensive efforts have been key to their undefeated season this year. The defense late in games has been top notch among those in the league. One can accredit that to Baton Rouge’s roster depth and their ability to substitute players and maintain the level of play. The other is to late game scoring. The difference in output for Baton Rouge, between the first and second half, has been phenomenal. In the first half, Baton Rouge has outscored their opponents 95-48. Whereas in the second half Baton Rouge has outscored their opponents 138-76 points. Only Chattanooga has been better in the second half of matches.

Baton Rouge carries one of the deepest rosters of players, and has seen many variations of their roster over the course of the season. Baton Rouge has several options to choose from. Starting from the backs, The wing combination of Mitchell Pedler and Alvin Lewis has been credited with 40 points and 8 tries. Center, Terrance Alexander accounts for 20 points and 4 tries on the season. The connection between the backs and forwards is accredited to the True South’s highest scoring scrumhalf, Osmar Padilla. Padilla accounts for 25 points and 5 tries this season. Looking at the Forwards, Baton Rouge carries the highest scoring 8-man in the Union, with Brandt Jumonville accounting for 20 points and 4 tries on the season. Baton Rouge has seen consistency from each area of the field.

Nashville Rugby vs. Knoxville Rugby; courtesy of Nashville Rugby Club
Nashville Rugby vs. Knoxville Rugby; courtesy of Nashville Rugby Club

Nashville will be participating in their first True South Championship playoffs since the inauguration of the team. Nashville enters into the competition with the #2 ranked scoring offense in the Union scoring 274 points this season, and the #5 scoring defense in the Union allowing a whopping 218 points on the season. Nashville has seen roller-coaster success this season. Nashville biggest losses have come against Chattanooga with 50-15 and 35-0 losses. They started their season with a 1-1-1 record. Nashville has had seen improvement late in the season though. They won dominantly in 4 of their last 5 matches, by an average score of 47.5 points per game.

While both Baton Rouge and Nashville have earned their rights into this tournament, I don’t see Nashville being able to take this game. Baton Rouge has proved to be capable of winning games whether they are close or blow outs. Nashville’s playoff inexperience may play a factor into the match as well. Look for Baton Rouge to take this match.

Finals Prediction

Chattanooga over Baton Rouge

37-24

 

 

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