This weekend, the top senior club teams in the USA will face off in Obetz, Ohio to stake their claim at the 2019 National Championships! All matches will be broadcast on FloRugby. Or if you’re attending in person, purchase tickets.
Men’s Division I: Austin Blacks vs. Life Running Eagles: 5pm ET Saturday June 1
Two of the strongest programs in club rugby have returned to national prominence after taking a hiatus from the national spotlight in the last couple of years. The Austin Blacks and the Life Running Eagles, are consistently two of the best club teams in the country; however, they had not been able to translate local success into national success. This year that has changed and both teams are surging towards the first Division I National Championship in each program’s history. Both teams had extraordinary regular seasons, the Blacks went a perfect 10-0, with an average winning margin of 59 points. The Running Eagles were not quite as dominant through their regular season, but were still sharp in their performances throughout, never scoring less than 27 points in a game. Both teams play physical but expansive rugby, possessing the ability to beat you up front and out wide. In their semifinal matches, both fullbacks were instrumental in their wins. Austin and Life needed the trusty boots of Adam Armstrong and Sam Crowley, respectively, to see them over the line. It wasn’t just with the boot these two came in handy, they also offer a second option in directing attacking traffic and alleviate the pressure put on their fly halves. Expect a close game, with both teams playing similar styles. The winner of this game will be whoever can dominate up front and set the tone physically. The team which struggles to matchup around contact will come out on the losing end.
Women’s Division I: Austin Valkyries vs. Northern Virginia Rugby: 7pm ET Saturday June 1
For the first time in ten years, Northern Virginia Rugby will have a shot at the Women’s Division I title. Their opponents will be the Austin Valkyries, who are making their first appearance in the National Championship. Despite being two of the most prominent sides in club rugby, neither team has been able to capture the national title. Both teams have had seasons filled with ebbs and flows. The Valkyries have proven to be a team of perseverance. After starting the season off at 1-3 they bounced back to win four in a row and qualify for the second seed from Red River in the playoffs. They demonstrated their resiliency yet again when they came from behind to take down a rampant Glendale Merlins D1 squad. Their will power and ability to bounce back will undoubtedly be tested again this weekend. NOVA, similarly, did not start off the season as well as they closed it out. Kicking their campaign off with a 1-1 start, NOVA has since rattled off seven consecutive wins and show no signs of slowing down. They’ve demonstrated an ability to play from the front, as well as chase teams down when they are behind. No more so, than when they came back from an early 21-8 deficit in their semifinal against Raleigh Venom to win, 51-26. Both teams play as one and are incredibly strong. It will be hard to separate the two on Saturday and this game will likely come down to a few key plays late in the game.
Men’s Division III: Austin Blacks D3 vs. Grand Rapids Gazelles: 11am ET Sunday June 2
Only one team returns from the 2018 championships and it is the reigning Men’s Division III champions, Austin Blacks D3. They will be defending their crown against the sole Midwest representatives, the Grand Rapids Gazelles. The Blacks have only seemed to get stronger since their national championship win last year. In 2019 they have won every game they’ve played, with the exception of one 17-point decision, and they’ve won each game by at least 30 points. Grand Rapids, have not lost a game in Division III all year, however, they have not been nearly as dominant as the Blacks. While this may come across as a negative thing, it actually proves the Rapids can adjust to the level of competition. It also shows when things go awry, as they often do, the Gazelles know how to bounce back. The key moment in this game will likely be the 20 minutes heading into half time. Grand Rapids is a team that excels at getting ahead early, however, in their quarterfinal and semifinal matches, they struggled to maintain their hot starts. If Austin can weather the first 20 minutes and then pull ahead as they head into the half they may have the game right where they want it entering the final stanza. It will be an exciting game of running rugby and one which could go either way.
Men’s Division II: Olympic Club vs. Atlanta Old White: 1pm ET June 2
Olympic Club is one of the most storied Division I programs in the history of club rugby. This year they joined the ranks of Division II and immediately have shown why they are such a historic club. Their opponent, Atlanta Old White, was one of the most prominent clubs at the turn of the century, and they have recaptured that form in the last few years. Both teams have undergone a near perfect season, with Old White dropping one fixture early in their campaign and Olympic dropping two. Since the early losses they haven’t skipped a beat. Old White has gone 9-0 since their initial loss and Oympic Club has gone 8-1 since their first. Both teams have shown a propensity to score. Olympic kicked things up a gear in the qualifiers, scoring 102 points across two games. Old White wasn’t quite as dominant getting into the Championships, but they were certainly impressive. While there are a myriad of similarities between these two teams, perhaps the one which sticks out the most is their fire power at the end of games. This was never more prevalent than in the qualifiers. For Old White, they found themselves down twice inside the final 15 minutes, including being down on the last play of the match, but their offense showed no signs of fatigue and were able to fire on all cylinders when they needed it the most. Olympic Club had a similar offensive explosion in the second half against the Wichita Barbarians. After 40 minutes the squads were tied at 29, but Olympic outscored the Barbarians in the final 40, 45-0, to secure their spot in the Championship. This game will be an absolute battle, and no matter what the score or how much time is remaining no team will be out of contention until the final whistle sounds.
Women’s Division II: Sacramento Amazons vs. Harrisburg Rugby: 3pm ET June 2
The final game of the weekend will pit two offensive powerhouses against each other, the Sacramento Amazons and Harrisburg Rugby. This year has been about redemption for the team from California’s capital. After a superb regular season last year, they looked primed for a deep post season run, but it wasn’t to be. This year they have learned from their lessons and look like a team on a mission. Their opponent Harrisburg, has been equally dominant and have been playing at a level far above any of the teams they’ve faced. While they are not the biggest side, they have no problem matching up against teams that try to physically bully their opponents. Solid tackling technique and some of the most dedicated players in the country all play into their stout defense. They will need to rely heavily on their technique against the Amazons. The Amazons are a team which uses its size advantage to get over their opposition, and once they have worn the defense down they use their speed to pile on the points. One of the downfalls the Amazons is their inability to sustain a performance for 80 minutes. This will be something Harrisburg looks to exploit. If Harrisburg can withstand the physical onslaught for the opening passages of the game and keep Sacramento from building an early lead, they will then look to use their speedy backline to exploit holes within the Amazons defensive line. However, Harrisburg may not have faced a side as physical as the Amazons all year. Both teams will be brimming with confidence as they head into the fixture and for good reason, however, they both know they will be in for a fight. This matchup will turn out to be a chess match and the slightest misstep could prove to be the difference.