2023 is finally upon us, and that means it’s time for the Club rugby season to get underway. A few games have already been played, and that will provide us with a good base to start this preview, but the majority are yet to be decided. In this article series we’ll dive into each division, how each team finished last year, and how they look for this year. Enjoy!
Men's Division 2
The Men’s D2 competition is split into two pools, named D2 and D1b, referring to the clubs who only play D2 and those who have partner D1 sides. However a few true D2 clubs are in the D1b pool, so take those names with a grain of salt. The only change in D2 is that Little Rock has gone to D3, so there are two pools of five. D2 “true” is made up of HARC, HURT, San Antonio, The Woodlands, and West Houston. D1b has the second sides of the Austin Huns, the Austin Blacks, Dallas RFC, joined by DARC and Fort Worth.
San Antonio headlines the D2 “true” pool, as they finished top last year with a 7-1 record, and have represented the RRRC at Nationals before. The D2 is a very competitive division, and they will have to fight for every win. They already played one match in December, a 21-15 loss to HURT. They open 2023 at home on January 21st against the Woodlands.
Also returning after finishing the 2022 season 7-1 is the Houston United Rugby Club (HURT). HURT came in second after San Antonio last year by one table point, a bonus point they failed to get in their one loss. But again, last year is last year! HURT have already started off on the right foot as they defeated San Antonio and West Houston, entering 2023 with a 2-0 record. Can they keep this momentum going? We’ll have to wait as they are off until the 28th when they host The Woodlands.
The other fun acronym team coming out of Houston is the Houston Athletic Rugby Club (HARC). HARC finished 3-5 last year after starting their season on two strong wins. They had two matches scheduled at the end of 2022, but the weather had other ideas, and now all 10 of their conference games will be played in 2023. It’s sure to be a busy year for the men from HARC, but maybe this means they’ll stay at the top of their game and make the run into Championships at the end of the season. Barring more foul weather, HARC will open their season on January 21st hosting West Houston.
The Woodlands are back after also finishing 3-5 last year. The Woodlands have an interesting schedule this year, they’ve already played their opening home game, a big win over West Houston, and now they hit the road for four in a row before finishing off with four at home. Their first game was a weather reschedule, so that will slot in somewhere, but it will be interesting to see how The Woodlands progresses. We all know home field advantage is a thing, and that could really come in clutch for The Woodlands at the business end of the season. First up is a trip to San Antonio on January 21st.
The final team rounding out the “True D2” are the West Houston Lions. Now, the Lions were technically in D2 last year, but forfeited all their matches. Every team had their difficulties coming out of COVID, and the Lions were struck particularly hard. However, the Lions have their new facility, and have already played two matches. Both were losses, but they are already trekking better than last year as losses are better than forfeits. The Lions travel to HARC on January 21st to open their 2023.
Entering 2023 with a perfect record after two matches is the Dallas RFC. Dallas gave it to Austin then narrowly snuck by DARC, both at home on Lake Highlands. Dallas also made it to the RRRC Championship last year after taking down the D2 True Champion San Antonio in the semifinals, so winning is nothing new to them. Let’s hope they didn’t leave their luck in 2022, as they have a fierce opening match this year against defending D2 champions, the Austin Blacks on the 14th of January.
One of two true D2 teams in this division, Fort Worth are back for another year. Fort Worth finished a respectable 5-5 last season, chalking up wins over both Dallas and the Austin Huns (who finished above them) and DARC and Little Rock (who finished below). This D2 competition was all over the place last year, and if Fort Worth can time it just right, they can get the right wins at the right time, and make the run to Championships. They enter 2023 0-1, and take on DARC at the Rugby Gardens on January 14th.
The other true D2 team representing in the D1b is the Dallas Athletic Rugby Club (DARC). DARC were part of this same division last year and finished 2-8. However DARC have the (and this is a totally unbiased view) nicest pitch in Texas and are sure to use that field to their advantage. They may have dropped their first match to Dallas, but it was only by 8 points, AND it wasn’t at the Rugby Gardens. Tune in to watch DARC defend home ground on January 14th as they take on Fort Worth for the battle of the D2 Trues in D1b.
With the same 5-5 record as Fort Worth, the Austin Huns are back in the mix and ready to come out with a winning record this year. The Huns have also undergone a big change, with a new coach and facility upgrades, which we hope work to their advantage. Austin has opened their season against arguably the two toughest opponents, Dallas and the Austin Blacks; which give them a 0-2 record to start 2023 on. As noted above, this division is always a little crazy, and 0-2 is nothing you can’t come back from. The Huns travel to Fort Worth on January 28th to kick off the new year.
The defending RRRC D2 Champions are the final team in this pool, the Austin Blacks. Austin confidently beat Dallas in the final last year and headed to Houston for regionals. There they lost to eventual National Champions Charlotte in the National quarter final. Austin have new coaches, and as strong of a community as ever; they’ve already started their season 2-0 with wins over Fort Worth and crosstown rivals the Huns. One of their toughest challenges will be up on January 14th as they host Dallas in a rematch of the RRRC D2 final.
The TRU Women’s Division 2 has really shaken up this year compared to last. Dallas Harlequins are back after spending the last few seasons competing in the D1, sHARCs have entered a second side, and DARC has left to spend a season rebuilding in D3. The division is split into two pools, North and South. D2 North is made up of Little Rock, Dallas RFC, Dallas Harlequins, and the Austin Valkyries. D2 South has Bay Area, Round Rock Rage, San Antonio, and sHARCs.
The first team we’ll dive into from the D2 North is the northernmost club, Little Rock Women. Little Rock have historically been one of the top teams in D2 and finished top of the pool last year (albeit they had a number of forfeits against them). They placed 2nd at RRRC Championships behind San Antonio, and are looking to top the pool again this year, and hopefully win some hardware. Little Rock’s first match in 2023 will be when they host the Dallas Harlequins on January 21st.
Dallas RFC joined Little Rock in the D2 North, after finishing middle of their pool last year and just missing out on a trip to the RRRC Championships. Dallas also suffered from the forfeit wave last season, having a few against them, but also posting one themselves. However this is a new year, and bolstered by the partnership and success of their men’s program, we hope to see this women’s club grow as well. Dallas are off until February 4th, when they host Little Rock.
The Dallas Harlequins have moved into Division 2 this year after playing both D1 and D2 friendly matches last season. The Harlequins had a tough go of it last year against the D1 programs, but have new coaches and staff on board that look to be organizing and cleaning up behind the scenes. We expect the Harlequins to be one of the toughest teams in the division, and we might be right, they’ve already posted a 91-10 friendly win over Dallas from December. The Harlequins travel to Little Rock on January 21st for their first league game of the year.
Rounding out the North are the Austin Valkyries. Austin has fielded both a D1 and D2 team for the past few years, but as mentioned in the D1 preview, is in a bit of rebuilding. Their schedule accommodates for a D1 and D2 to play on different weekends, but it’s all going to be a numbers game. Fortunately Austin is a hub for rugby, and the demand is there. The Valkyries host the Dallas Harlequins on February 4th at Nixon Lane.
We’ll start with the new kids on the block, Houston Athletic’s (the sHARCs) second side. We raved about the success of the D1 team in our earlier post, and that’s what has led to the creation of this new team. The D2 will have access to the same high-level coaching and will practice with the D1 athletes, which will hopefully translate to a bumper opening season for the ladies in Houston. Their first test will be January 21st when they host the San Antonio Riveters.
Returning to the D2 South are Bay Area. Bay Area finished last in the pool last year with a 1-5 record, their only win over Round Rock Rage at home in March. However, new year, new team. Bay Area has less travel than ever before with another D2 program in Houston, and will hopefully take advantage of away games close to home and churn out some more wins. Bay Area start their season off hosting Round Rock Rage on January 14th.
San Antonio are back to the party as well as the returning RRRC D2 Champions, after an undefeated season they defeated Little Rock in the final 37-15. San Antonio has kept quiet throughout the winter, and just started putting together practices now; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because their season doesn’t start until January 21st. We anticipate the defending champions to come back strong, but will have to wait and see.
Last but certainly not least are the former new kids, Round Rock Rage. Rage had a stellar opening season in the D2 as they made it to the final four after finishing 3-3. Not bad for the newbies. The Rage have found a new home at the Rock Rugby Complex, and based on what we can see on social media, are ready to absolutely smash it this year. Their first match is the 14th of January as they travel to Bay Area.