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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Club Championships Preview & Predictions


New club champions will be crowned today as the club championships kick off. The Men's and Women's DI finals as well as the Women's DII titles will be handed out today at Infinity Park while the Men's DII and DIII titles go out tomorrow. All matches will be shown live on The Rugby Channel.

Austin Blacks vs. Mystic River (Saturday, 9:00 p.m. et/6:00 p.m. pt)

The Austin Blacks were only minutes away from winning the DI championship last year in a wild match against New York that went late into the night. They may not play in the ARP or PRP but it would be foolish to suggest that the Blacks are not one of the best teams in the country. Year after year they have proven themselves to be an outstanding team. They only added to that this year with a convincing win in the Gold Cup. It wasn't a perfect year, a narrow loss to the Dallas Reds robbed them of the top spot in the Red River but they exacted their revenge in the playoffs.

The Blacks do head into the match missing a couple of key players in Pat Sullivan and Zac Mizell. Both of those players have been instrumental in picking up points this year. Sullivan in particular has been a strength with his boot. At the same time they have the likes of Tyler Terrazone, Tim Howard, Pierce Reed, and Matthew Radzavich all primed and ready to go. The Blacks can score in a hurry and if they get a burst of tries, watch out.

Take the jump to read more.

Because of the ways things shook out Mystic River played an ARP schedule except for playing Life. The team did quite well for themselves easily beating their two Boston rivals and splitting their matches with NYAC and Old Blue to finish near the top. It was Old Blue they tussled with the most but Mystic River had the last word with a win in the playoffs.

Like Austin, Mystic River have a host of very good players. Luke Schlotman is an excellent prop while Jon Kokinda and Sean Rafferty bring a lot of pace and skill to the back-row. Then in the backs you have former Samoan international Alatai Tupou, Vinny Daley, Jared Collinson, and Evin O'Driscoll. Many of those players are 7s stars but they are skilled in 15s as well.

In picking a winner, we think that the depth of competition Mystic River has had to face this year and the absence of Sullivan we think Mystic River will take it.

Austin

Forwards: Troy Mussey, John Clery, Sam Rooke, Tyler Terrazone, Tim Howard, Conor Bertrand, Paul Benade, Ngwako Ralepelle; Backs: Zak Triplett, Stephen Jones, Pierce Reed, Austin Byrne, Levi Kereti, Matthew Radzavich, Antonio Winn; Bench: Paul Nieuwoudt, Joseph Taute, Eric Martinez, David Goss, Chris Parker, Diego Sotelo, David Comerford, Rickey Johnson

Mystic River

Forwards: Chris O'Donnell, Michael Bozza, Luke Schlotman, David Mckenna, Joe Hastry, Jon Kokinda, Joseph Shurmaitis, Sean Rafferty; Backs: Gabe Perrone, Robbie Malneek, Stephen Dazzo, Evin O'Driscoll, Alatai Tupou, Vinny Daley, Jared Collinson; Bench: Todd Theodat, Diego Maquieira, Andrew Burns, Gianni Miceli, Michael Armstrong, Franco Liebenberg, Nathan Fox, Chris Frazier

Seattle Saracens vs. Chicago North Shore (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. et/4:00 p.m. pt)

Defending champions Seattle are going to have their hands full as they try to retain their title against Chicago North Shore. The Saracens often fly under the radar given that they play almost all of their club rugby in British Columbia. The finished third in the top division in BC, which isn't bad given the quality of that competition (Canada did make the World Cup final after all). Led by Eagles Naima Reddick, Carrie White, and Ashley Kmiecik they have as strong of a team as you are going to get. Kelsi Stockert, who has been electric for them, is set to come off the bench which should tell you something.

North Shore are also loaded. Lizzy Bristow at scrum is a great players and it's going to be a fun battle between her and White. The team is very experienced have played in plenty of big games in the past. Plus, the Midwest is one of the toughest women's divisions in the country and they were a perfect 6-0 in the competition. In the playoffs they were tested by both Beantown and Raleigh but past the test.

This match is going to be close but we think that Seattle have too many weapons and will come away with the win.

Tempe Old Devils vs. Detroit Tradesmen (Sunday, 4:00 p.m. et/1:00 p.m. pt)

The Tempe Old Devils are no strangers to the big stage. They were in the final in 2014 and make the semi-finals last year losing to eventual champions Life West. Of all the regions in the country Arizona may be the most underrated spot for talent. Year after year solid players come from the state and many of those players find their way to the Old Devils. The team was once again dominant in their division with a perfect 10-0 record and nearly a 550 positive point differential. In the playoffs they beat a very good Sacramento Capitals team as well as a Provo Steelers team that had championship aspirations.

Still, even though Tempe have the talent and experience it would be foolish to count out Detroit. The Tradesmen are a physical team that has taken their rugby more seriously over the past fews years and has seen it pay dividends. Make no mistake, the team has talent. This is the same club that produced Ahmad Harajly and there are more like him developing. Like many of the teams competing this weekend the Tradesmen are unbeaten on the year and they really shined in the playoffs.

This is a tough one to predict and it could easily be the most exciting match of the weekend. If we had to pick a winner it's hard to go against the Old Devils given their experience and frustration of not winning a title the last few years.

Life West vs. Wisconsin (Saturday, 5:00 p.m. et/2:00 p.m. pt)

Wisconsin are back to try and defend their title but will have to go through a very good Life West team to do it. Wisconsin were a perfect 8-0 in the regular season before racking up some big wins in the playoffs. They are a deep team led by last year's hero Justine Wypych. She was outstanding in last year's final and with some turnover in the team this year will be counted on once again.

As dominant as Wisconsin were in their division Life West have multiplied that. They gave up only 32 points all year in the Pacific North while scoring a whopping 545. That was only magnified in the playoffs as they won their semi-final 97-8. Players like Catie Benson and Tiara Littleton are fantastic players but it's the team's depth that has been impressive.

We're going to take Life West in this one.

Euless Texans vs. Fairfield Yankees (Sunday, 2:00 p.m. et/11:00 a.m. pt)

Two years ago the Euless Texans didn't exist and now they are playing for a DIII championship. That's a remarkable rise for a club that proved they are no joke with an unbeaten Red River season and then convincing wins in the playoffs. They will face a Fairfield Yankees team that also saw success in their competition. Since we haven't really been able to see either team play it's a toss-up but we'll go with the Texans.

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