‘Tis the season for playoffs! It’s been a long arduous season for all of the teams, dealing with weather, illness, and forfeits has thrown a wrench in everyone’s preparation, but playoffs and the path to the RRRC Championship waits for no one.
While the other RRRC divisions have semi-final pairings decided directly from the regular season, the Men’s Division 3 has a few more teams and thus does things a little differently. Formerly used as the “Wildcard” round, it has morphed into a true quarter-final playoff, where the top eight teams battle it out to move onto the semi-finals. The top two teams from each subdivision are put into a group of eight; those eight are then ranked first by wCP (weighted Competition Points) [competitions points gained/total available competition points in their subdivision] and then by wAPD (weighted Average Point Differential). The typical 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 structure follows unless teams from the same subdivision are paired up, then that team is moved to the next available quarter-final slot to prevent constant rematches of the same teams. The top seed in each subdivision is always guaranteed a home match. Simple right? That’s how we’ve configured the below quarter-finals*; now let’s dive in!
Austin Blacks (1) vs Alliance (7)
Two of our top Divisional seeds enter the post-season undefeated and we will start with the most decorated of such, the formidable Austin Blacks. Oh yes, here she goes again, singing the praises of the Austin Blacks.. blah blah we’ve heard this all before. You’re right, you have, and that’s because the Austin Blacks are really really good and frankly, keep being really really good. So I have a lot to talk about. The Blacks are 10-0, with full bonus points; they’ve scored an astonishing 543 points this season while only allowing 31. That’s borderline terrifying. However the Blacks are not invincible, we’ve seen that before. Despite being on the hunt for their fourth consecutive RRRC D3 title (the first two which were bolstered by a National Championship Title), Austin tasted defeat at the hands of the Palm Beach Panthers not a year ago at the Gulf Coast Super Regional. Could it happen again this weekend? Or are Austin too good to be stopped?
Heading down to Burr Field to face this powerhouse are the men from Alliance. Alliance boast a 5-3 record, winning all four home games. Alliance have impressively scored 284 points over their 8 matches, and all games having scored three tries or more. So Alliance knows where the try line is, and how to get over it. Whether they can do that with a wall of black shirts in the way is a different conversation. Find out Saturday.
Fort Hood (2) vs Dallas Harlequins (8)
The other undefeated top seed comes from the D3 Central region, the men from Fort Hood Old Skool Rugby. Though Fort Hood boast an impressive record, it must be noted that three of those wins come from forfeits, two from ORC and one from McAllen. So Fort Hood have really only played five games over the entire season. They did still win those five games, so we’re not trying to discredit them, just reporting the facts. Fort Hood had a dream run to the playoffs last year, where they lost their QF in overtime, just to get a last gasp chance due to eligibility issues from their opponents. In the semi-finals they lost a heartbreak match to the Houston Arrows 41-38, and I don’t think my heart rate has ever come down from that moment. This year Fort Hood are in it to win it, they know what the other side looks like and are determined to never see it again.
Taking on Fort Hood are our Cinderella Story team, the Dallas Harlequins. Dallas had all but hung up their boots and sat down on the couch to enjoy a beverage when the phone started ringing, “Boys, you’ve got another shot”. And boy, are they taking it. Dallas finished 6-4 on the season, recording losses to the Austin Huns, Dallas RFC, and two to the Austin Blacks. Sparked with this new comeback energy, we expect the Harlequins to come out firing in the playoff rounds. Regardless of the outcome, sparks will fly when these two electric sides clash on Saturday.
OKC Rugby (3) vs Shreveport (5)
Arguably the spiciest quarter-final match, we are thrilled to see old subdivisional mates OKC Rugby and Shreveport battling it out for a berth to the semi-finals. Both teams played in the quarter-finals last year, but their journey ended there. Knowing that finally one of them will advance makes this match-up so much more exciting. OKC holds a 7-1 record, their only loss coming at the hands of Alliance, back in February. Since then OKC has been full steam ahead, gaining momentum as the season builds. Their last match was an impressive 70-36 defeat of Little Rock, a team in D2 as recently as last season. With the benefit of home field advantage, they save a six hour one-way drive, the longest any team participating in the QF round has to make.
On the other side of the match-up, the team that has to make this six hour drive, Shreveport. Shreveport thought they were done with travel to the North when they swapped to the D3 South subdivision at the start of this season; but hey, I guess a possible trip to the RRRC Championship weekend is a decent reason to fill up the gas tanks. With a 6-2 record, Shreveport has fallen once to the Houston Arrows and once to Galveston. Shreveport continue to play a similar style to the one that brought them into the QF rounds last year, not a lot of scoring, but instead a lot of steady controlled play. Paired against the flashy OKC, it will come down to who can set the pace, and who will have to change up their game plan.
Houston Arrows (4) vs Austin Huns (6)
Our final quarter-final has last years’ RRRC Championship runners up, the Houston Arrows taking on the Austin Huns, who are back in D3 playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Houston Arrows were hot last season, like a sizzling steak off the grill. Like a good steak, one must take it off the fire and give it a moment to rest to really develop the flavor. That’s what the Arrows have done this season. They’ve taken the time to really connect and develop their team flavors, and have plated up a main dish that is going for gold. The Arrows lost once to Shreveport on the road, but that’s just seasoning baby, it all plays into the final cut.
The Austin Huns are back in the hunt for D3 playoffs after a 12 year hiatus (or so I could find from the records). This side has often been seen as a “development” side for the Division 1 and Division 2, when it really has its own heartbeat and own character that brings out the best of the Austin Huns culture. The Huns are 7-3, and have notched up impressive 50-point wins over the Dallas RFC and the Dallas Harlequins. Should the Huns topple the Arrows, they will get the added benefit of the RRRC Championships being held at their home venue, and Huns fans are very good at getting under the skin of even the most disciplined teams.
By the end of the day April 1st, we will have the answer to our greatest question – who will be playing in the D3 semi-finals come Championship Weekend? Catch all the action at your local rugby pitch or follow up via the Texas Rugby Union social media pages.
For more information about the RRRC Championship Weekend, visit this page.
*Naturally there has to be an exception to this rule because we love complications. Alamo City was ranked #2 in their subdivision, but due to their last minute playoff forfeit last year, they are still serving their fine and unable to progress past regular season play. Corpus Christi were then bumped up to fill their spot. However Corpus Christi informed the RRRC Board they were unable to field a full side, and so the RRRC board voted to include the best 3rd place team (highest wACP) in Corpus’ spot. And thus we welcomed the Dallas Harlequins.