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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NCRC Report: Pilot Video Program Launched and Playoff Races Heating Up

by Ted Hardy

As the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference reaches the business end of their conference season, the division races are heating up. The races in both the East and West Division are up in the air and playoff seeds are still on the line.

In the midst of the conference schedule, the NCRC has also launched a pilot video sharing program through their new YouTube Channel called NCRC Rugby TV. The program is yet another addition to the growing number of college rugby teams and conferences that are making gave video available through the Internet. The program was designed to share game videos and live feeds with conference teams and now college rugby fans.

"The program is something I've had in my head for a while as a service that we can provide our member clubs," said Washington State Head Coach and Director of Rugby Matt Hudson.

"The main goal is to create parity and a better brand of rugby in the conference. Once it is rolling we should be able to see more upsets as teams can tailor their game plan to their opponents if they would like and have a sense for what they are going to see on game day."

With the limited amount of time available to coaches in the NCRC, one of the main hurdles to clear was how to take video and upload it. To that end the NCRC has teamed up with Tim Exton from Gametapes and have him farm out the videography to third parties that will be paid from the league coffers. With cameramen that are often new to the sport of rugby, following all of the action can be difficult. Exton, who has a rugby background, is working towards improving the overall recording of the NCRC rugby games.

"It's a win-win, coaches don't have to worry about it and it is there as a resource for all teams to use," said Hudson.

The NCRC program is in the early stages and only a handful of games are currently available. If the project goes well, the NCRC expects to make every game available for the 2014 NCRC season. Long-term, the NCRC hope to make the videos available to National Team Selectors for review. The plan for next year is that Matt Sherman (College All-American 15s) or Tony Pacheco (College All-American 7's) will have every player, that steps foot in an NCRC game, on tape to analyze.

Onto the action on the field, here is a look at how the NCRC playoff races are shaping up.

NCRC West Division

The race in the West Division is tight as Western Washington (4-0, 20pts.) is just ahead of the University of Washington (4-1, 19pts.). Western has a game in hand and have the inside track on winning the division. Western Washington has two games to play and face off against winless Boise State and then close their conference season against East Division leader Eastern Washington.

Regardless how it plays out, both Western Washington and Washington have comfortable leads in the West Division and have all but secured the top two seeds out of the West Division for the quarterfinals on April 6th.

Western Washington has been nearly unstoppable this season. The squad is the top offensive and defensive team in the NCRC. The squad has outscored their opponents 213-29 this season which is an average of 53.3 to 7.3 per game. Western is led by Quintin Wilms who has posted 57 points this season with four tries, 17 of 23 conversions, and one penalty goal. Robert Boenish, Louie Henson, and Giovanni Trujillo have each added four tries apiece to the balanced Viking attack.

Washington is coming off a big win in their annual Apple Cup grudge match against Washington State. Washington's only remaining conference opponent is Boise State. If Western Washington loses to Eastern Washington, the Huskies could slip into the top slot in the West Division.

After a rough opening weekend blowout loss to Western Washington, the Huskies have played well and have picked up valuable experience in winning close games. Washington averages 22.4 points per game. Their offensive attack is led by Aaron Carr with 29 points on one try, 6 of 13 conversions, and 4 of 5 penalties goals. Ian Booth and Hunter Dixon have both added three tries apiece to lead the team in that category.

The University of Oregon and Western Oregon round out the West Division. Both squads have struggled this season only notching one win apiece. Both teams will face tough opposition in the playoffs.

NCRC East Division

The East Division race is much tighter with three teams still in the running for playoff spots and the top slot still up for grabs. Eastern Washington (3-1, 15pts) and the University of Idaho (3-2, 15pts) are tied atop the East Division standings, but Eastern still has two games to play. Washington State (2-3, 11pts) remains in the picture in third place in the standings.

Eastern Washington's remaining conference matches include road games to face Oregon and a battle against the top team in the NCRC Western Washington. A victory over Oregon should be all that the Eagles need to secure the top spot in the East Division.

The Eagles are led by Eric Populus, the most prolific scorer in the short history of the NCRC. Populus has scored 89 points this season to lead the NCRC. Populus has scored 13 tries and added 12 conversions. Populus' 89 points is the NCRC single-season record and his 13 tries ties the single-season mark.

The big game in the East Division takes place on March 23rd when Idaho hits the road to face Washington State. With four points separating the teams in the standings, Washington State needs to win by more than seven points or get a try bonus to usurp Idaho for the #2 seed in the East Division.

Idaho has struggled of late, losing two out of their last three games after getting off to a 2-0 start. One of those losses was a 42-0 loss at the hands of Washington who narrowly defeated Washington State this past weekend. Dylan Brown leads Idaho's attack with 45 points on four tries, 11 conversions, and one penalty goal.

Washington State has to feel pretty good about their chances against Idaho at home. The Cougars have been fairly unlucky this season. They have the third best offense and third best defense in the NCRC and have outscored their opponents 121-77, but only have two wins to show for it. A disappointing Week 1 loss to Western Oregon and narrow losses to Eastern Washington and Washington have the Cougars in their current position. Darion and Michael Taylor are tied for the team lead with four tries apiece.

Boise State rounds out the NCRC East Division. As the only winless squad in the competition this season, the going has been tough and they have a likely date with Western Washington waiting for them in the quarterfinals.

The NCRC quarterfinals and semi-finals take place the weekend of April 6th with the NCRC Championship coming the next weekend on April 13th.

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