Men’s Club Rugby Predictions – Week of April 11, 2015

The club Rugby XV’s regular season is rapidly coming to an end. The playoffs are coming up and teams are trying to sure up their spot for the post-season and attempt a chance at a National Championship. Let’s see how I feel this might work out.

Amro Guda; courtesy of Charlotte Rugby Club
Amro Guda; courtesy of Charlotte Rugby Club

Carolina Rugby Union

Union Semi-Finals

Greenville Rugby Club (7-1) vs. Atlanta Old White Rugby Club (6-2)

This is the first round of the Union playoffs for these teams. Greenville is the #2 seeded team in this union for a reason. They have been very resilient this season. Their only loss coming against the #1 seeded team, Charlotte Rugby. Greenville is 2nd in the Union in scoring with 280 points, they are 3rd in scoring defense allowing 161 points this season.

Greenville has also shown some weaknesses over the season. Though they have been strong in winning, they have shown to keep games rather close with their wins. Their biggest wins came against bottom ranked, Ft. Bragg. They scored 135 of their 280 seasonal points against Ft. Bragg. Removing the Ft. Bragg skewed stats, Greenville’s average margin of victory has only been by 5.8 points. Though this shows that Greenville has been able to tough games out and close strong, a closer look at this team reveals that Greenville has been a tough first half team, but has been paltry in the second half. Greenville has outscored teams in the first 40 minutes 66-10, whereas in the second half they have been dominated 45-84. This second half let down has not proved itself to prevent them from winning, but definitely carries concern for the playoffs.

Atlanta Old White, has historically been at its best during the Union playoffs. This regular season, Old White hasn’t felt as dominate as they normally have in the past. Their two losses have come against the top two teams in the league, though they have played each team tough. Old White has the 5th scoring offense  in the Union with 130 points on the season, and the 1st scoring defense allowing only 100 points.

Atlanta Old White has yet to beat a team with a winning record in their Union. They have seen balance in their outputs, but have seemingly looked to their Forwards to keep them in games. They have seen decent results from their backs, but they haven’t shown a propensity to really enforce their dominance on teams with their offense. This will be the third year in a row that Old White will be in the conference playoffs. Historically, Old White has played some of its best Rugby in the conference playoffs. Experience plays a massive factor into the mindset of teams in a one and done situation.

This will be the second time both these teams play each other this season, and the second time both teams meet in the first round of the Union semifinals. Greenville was able to take the close game against Old White, 17-15, on March 7th in Atlanta. Both teams have shown to play a strong Forwards game when it comes to defense, though Greenville seems to have the edge when it comes to Backs play. Another factor that plays into this game is resulted from last year. Greenville was utterly dominated by Atlanta Old White in the semi-finals losing 32-3. Motivation from that loss last year will most likely inspire Greenvilles efforts.

Though both teams seem to have a viable case, I expect Greenville to take this game. Greenville is a much better team this year than they were last year. Even though they have not been proficient in the second half, they have shown the ability to close out games, especially close games. Though Atlanta Old White has the playoff experience, I believe there are more motivating factors to inspire Greenville in this match, not to mention having the homefield advantage.

Charlotte Rugby Club (7-1) vs. Atlanta Renegades (3-4)

Charlotte is the Carolina Rugby Union defending champion, and once again Charlotte has been the undisputed top team in the Union this year. Charlotte has been top of the league in scoring. They lead the league in offensive scoring with 356 points on the year, and are 2nd in the league in defensive scoring allowing 157 points all season. Charlotte has been able to boast a deep roster that has included all-star players such as Chris Milledge (USA South, Star Rugby), Amro Guda (USA South, Star Rugby), and Matt Hughston (USA South, USA Eagles development). Charlotte has an average margin of victory  of 29 points per game. Charlotte’s sole loss came against #2 seeded Greenville Rugby in a close match 34-30 on January 31.

Atlanta Renegades are kind of the surprise team in this match team. They haven’t been very good this season, with their two wins coming against 0-7 Ft. Bragg and 1-7 Charleston Outlaws. Atlanta has the 4th ranked scoring offense with 239 points this season, and 4th ranked scoring defense, allowing 215 points. Renegades have allowed 33.6 points per game on the road versus scoring 29.3 points per game.

The Renegades have a tough match on their hands in this game. Charlotte is clearly the better team with a better balance between the output for the Backs and Forwards. Charlotte’s style of play will out match the Renegades. Look for Charlotte to take this win.

Houston United Rugby Club; courtesy of Michael Starghill
Houston United Rugby Club; courtesy of Michael Starghill

Texas Rugby Union

Houston United Rugby Club (5-0) at Woodlands Rugby Club (5-1)

This is the match of the Week in the Red River Rugby Conference Division 2. This is the second iteration of this match between these two teams. Last time they played, Houston United was able to gut out the win over Woodlands, 28-21. Woodlands did almost win that match in a second half comeback to only fall short by a Try and conversion. We could talk scoring stats but the stats will only tell you one thing, Woodlands has been slightly better on offense and Houston United has been slightly better on defense. These are two very evenly matched teams. This is a playoff determining match up. Once again, I’ll take this down to the one difference making factor I can find between these two teams and that will be homefield advantage. I expect both teams to put it all out there, but I look for Woodlands to take this match in closing.

Little Rock Rugby Club (5-0) at Fort Worth Rugby Club (3-2)

The Little Rock Stormers are back on the field in matrix play. They are looking to continue their dominance of the Red River Conference. Fort Worth is on a nice winning streak, winning their last three matches by a combined score of 71-50. Fort Worth has been controlling their home-field like nobodies business. This will be the second time these teams meet this season, as Little Rock defeated Fort Worth at home 34-12. Fort Worth is not the same team they were at the beginning of the season. They were able to avenge a 41-13 home loss to Tulsa in November, with a revenge win on the road, 34-26.

Both teams carry viable cases for taking this game. Both teams have not played a match since March 21. I look for experience to be the game changer in this match. Though Fort Worth has been on an upswing, Little Rock has been playing the same rough tough dominating Rugby all season, and I don’t see an away game changing that. I expect Little Rock to win this match.

Tulsa Rugby Club (4-2) at Oklahoma City Crusaders (0-6)

Tulsa has been one of the more underwhelming top ranked teams in the league. Their only losses have come in relatively close games against Little Rock and Forth Worth, but their wins have not been impressive. Tulsa has struggled on the road against teams. Though they have been able to keep games close, averaging a scoring margin of 4.3 points, they have struggled to close games. Oklahoma City have not been able to close out any games, but they have been competitive in all their matches. Most of Oklahoma City’s matches have been on the road, and being at home will play heavily into their output. Tulsa needs this win to maintain a top 2 spot in the RRRC D2 South division. The last time these two teams played, Oklahoma City made a second half comeback to bring the game within 7 points before Tulsa was able to pull away to win it 34-20. I think Tulsa will continue their road struggles, and Oklahoma City will pull the upset in this match, defeating Tulsa.

Bay Area Rugby Club (0-6) at Alamo City Rugby Club (2-4)

This is the match up of two teams that have nothing but pride to play for this season. Alamo City has all the momentum in this match, with a nice confidence boost from a win over the Katy Lions on March 21. Look for Alamo City to take this win at home.

True South Rugby Union

Baton Rouge Rugby Club (6-0) at Birmingham Rugby Club (6-1)

This is the game of the week for this division….let alone the Union. This again a battle for first place. Baton Rouge was able to take the win over Birmingham at home, 39-24, back on March 14th. Last time Baton Rouge had the advantage. They had a full squad, home-field advantage and had been grinding out ugly wins. Birmingham was missing 3 key players, on the road, and were cruising through wins, though they had not been properly tested all season. In this match up we see a little bit of an opposite story. Birmingham will have most of their players, though the loss of 8-man, Brendon Smith, is still major for the team. Birmingham has the home-field advantage and have been grinding out ugly wins. Baton Rouge, on the other hand, has seen injuries to their Back line (Val Saurage, Patrick Walker and Mitch Peddler), have been cruising through wins and will be on the road.

This is going to be another dirty game as the seeding for the True South Union Championships will be determined here.  Birmingham has the lead in the division, by points, but is only benefited on that by having played one more game than Baton Rouge. While both these teams are actually, I believe the the loss of players and home-field will be the two determining factors in this game. Neither of those are benefited in Baton Rouge’s way. Look for Birmingham to close their last home game of the season with a win.

Watch for big plays from the club rookies, Baton Rouge’s, AJ Lewis and Birmingham’s, Kwame Little.

Kwame Little; Courtesy of Birmingham Rugby Club
Kwame Little; Courtesy of Birmingham Rugby Club

Memphis Rugby Club (3-2-1) at Chattanooga Rugby Club (6-0)

Memphis will be taking on Chattanooga this weekend. Chattanooga is still the best team in this league. On top of that they have yet to allow any points at home, despite scoring 93 points in their two home games. Memphis has been playing tougher and more competitively each week, but they are still not consistent enough to take on Chattanooga. The last time they played it was a home game for Memphis and they lost 82-6 to Chattanooga. I don’t expect Memphis to fare any better against Chattanooga at home. Look for Chattanooga to take this game.

Jackson Rugby Club (1-6) at Battleship Rugby Club (1-6)

This is the match of pride. Neither team has any chance of the playoffs, but this match up will still be fierce. This is the last game for both teams and they are very evenly matched up. The last time these two teams it came down to the last second and a missed conversion to give Battleship the win. I look at this to be another match that will play out oppositely. I expect Jackson to take the win in this match for the final win for their season.

Hopkinsville Rugby Club (0-5) at Nashville Rugby Club (2-2-1)

This is a pretty one sided match. Nashville is fighting for playoff placement and will need this win over Hopkinsville, and a loss by Memphis, to begin to solidify their spot in the True South Union Championships. Hopkinsville has not been competitive at all this season. Nashville will most likely use this game as a warm up as they look forward to their last away match against Knoxville next week. Look for Nashville to take the easy win in this.

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