This weekend the UL Ragin Cajun Rugby squad will be facing their first round opponent UM-Duluth at the St. Louis University campus. The Cajun came out of the Deep South Rugby Conference with a perfect 6-0 record and a final season ranking of #24 in the country and #2 in the state of Louisiana, defeating their opponents with a combined score of 312 – 42. The Cajuns completed the season with their second consecutive conference title as they head into Regional’s.
The UM-Duluth Rugby squad has been well noticed by the USA Rugby world. Last year they finished second in the country, losing to Salisbury University in the National Championship finals on May 12. Losing only one player from their Finals run in May, UM-Duluth picked up from where they left off last year as they continued to dominate through their Northern Lights Conference. UM-Duluth ran through their conference with a perfect record, defeating their opponents by a combined score of 418-20, finishing #2 in the country in DII Rugby. UM-Duluth is looking to return back to the national championship finals again this year.
These two teams carry many similarities and differences. As rugby goes, there is the obvious physical element that goes into the sport. These two teams would not have been able to reach where they have unless they had been, but there are differences between the team.
UMD seems to carry a large squad that gets its distinctive force from their forwards play. They like to play power rugby and wear down their opponents, and then take advantage of the back line of their opponents once everyone has been brought in. It’s a very simple game plan that has been implemented by UMD head coach, Jeremy Katchuba, but it has worked very well for them. Because UMD keeps the ball in the Forwards, their offloads are very efficient. Having at least one player in the Forwards available to Defensively, they have been able to be a bend and not break defense. They carry a basic shifting zone defense, that prevents many teams from being able to take advantage of overloads. The weakness that UMD does contain is that they are a little bit slower in the backs, but they have the size that is capable of negating most teams speed.
ULL has been strong in the Forwards this season. ULL doesn’t carry as much size as UMD, but they have more speed then UMD does. ULL has been electric in the open field. ULL takes advantage of getting the ball to their outside centers and wings to counter teams aggressive nature. ULL supports the ball carrier very well with their forwards. ULL Head Coach, Boyd Lejune has focused the ULL team on paying attention to the basics, and playing aggressive, but discipline rugby. That can be seen in the way that ULL play on defense. ULL is prone to aggressive attacks on the ball carrier, but have not let many big runs go through. They will have to calm lower play even more disciplined, to prevent UMD from counteracting their aggressive play. The biggest disadvantage that ULL will have is the size difference with UMD. But because they have the speed to negate that, they will have enough of an advantage to counter that action.
ULL will have their hands full in this match against a UMD team looking to get back to the Finals after losing the National Championship Finals in May. ULL will have to maintain their composure and not get intimidated by the atmosphere. ULL has been playing aggressive rugby all season and they have the game plan that should work to their advantage. The game advantage is going to favor UMD based on experience, and size, but it would not be surprising for ULL to create the upset.