Golden Gate: 38
The Austin Huns made history on Saturday when they defeated San Francisco Golden Gate, advancing to the semi-finals of The USA D1 Club Playoffs. For Austin, it’s the first season the elite team is together, and to make it this far in such a tough field of competitors is something very few expected. Meanwhile, the defending champs from last year, Mystic River, were eliminated that same day by NYAC Rugby.
Golden Gate definitely looked the part of an elite squad. Pila Huihui and Volney Rouse (who himself was a dominant player of the PRO league last year) at times made defenders look foolish, especially with the quick cutting running style from Pila that nearly broke a few Huns’ ankles.
Austin, however, played the more complete game overall, dominating possession and pace all game, and winning in the scrum despite being a pound and a half lighter. As a team that is often looked upon as one of the most fit in the country, they used their conditioning to their advantage by allowing the wings to spread the ball out wide in the open field. Quick passing and smart decisions were often able to open up significant gaps in a physical SF defensive front.
This fast paced attack allowed the Huns to get off to an early lead in the beginning, with Peter Malcolm scoring a try only one minute into the first half. However, with two missed conversions by Frenchman Timothee Guillimin, Gate was able to pull close ahead with a converted try of their own only minutes after. Accuracy would continue to be a factor for Guillimin all day, eventually ending the game going 2 for 7 on conversions. That’s a full ten points the Huns missed out on.
Despite their troubles kicking, the Huns found the try zone a total of seven times throughout the game, and were really able to pull away in the second half after it seemed Gate was poised for a comeback after a Volney Rouse try and conversion put them only one score down. But, Guillimin would get some measure of redemption there, nailing a penalty kick to put the Huns up by ten with the final score of the game.
Despite boasting an experienced, athletic roster, Golden Gate’s ultimate downfall was the constant penalties, with a good twenty total minutes spent by their players in the Sin Bin. One such dangerous high tackle called on a Gate player was seen by many as potential grounds for a red card, although the Sir chose not to proceed as such.
Now that the quarter finals have come and passed, only four teams remain on the road to the D1 Title. Belmont Shore, Austin, Chicago, and NYAC. Each team possess a fit and physical roster, all with their own unique attributes and skills that can put teams away.
However the cookie crumbles in this one, for us rugby fans, it’s going to be delicious.
The Ontario Blues accomplished the seemingly impossible on Saturday when they ended the twelve game win streak of the Glendale Raptors. When the final whistle sounded, the scoreboard showed an Ontario victory of 43-25.
The match began in familiar fashion, with Glendale jumping out to an early five point lead. However, Ontario would have an answer and more, scoring a try to go along with a successful kick after, putting the home team up 7-5.
That try must’ve been what the Blues really needed to kick them into high gear, because after that, they got noticeably more aggressive on their tackles and defense. Glendale, meanwhile, was continuously finding themselves on the wrong side of the referee’s calls.
Many phases attempted by the visiting side were rendered null due to a bevy of offside penalties, which is just fundamental rugby and I’d be willing to bet it drove Coach Williams crazy (have you ever stood next to that guy on the sideline? It’s Intense). Then, there were the little mistakes, dropped passes, miscommunications, that Ontario almost never failed to capitalize on. This resulted in the Blues controlling the pace, leaving Glendale unable to take advantage of their usually quick and agile backline.
The first half ended with the Blues ahead 24-15. A total of seven tries were scored, four by Ontario, three by Glendale, and most were expecting a tightly contested second half to ensue. Unfortunately for Glendale, the men from Ontario had other plans.
The second half opened with Glendale attempting to set up their wings for some big splash plays. These would work, at first. Alas, time after time many Glendale wingers found themselves running out of reach of their teammates support in the ruck, resulting in costly turnovers.
Glendale would end up drawing first blood in the half, though. Maximo de Achaval would get one his few successful attempts of the day, connecting with a penalty kick barely five meters out, bringing Glendale ever so slightly closer at 24-18.
But, just as they did in the first half, Ontario would answer quickly. A beautiful kick and chase would ensue up the middle of the field in Raptors territory as the crowd roared on, right before Ontario would eventually get their first of three tries in the second half.
That score may as well of been the official tone setter for the remainder of the game, as it seemed no matter what Glendale did, Ontario would have an answer for it. Either that, or another costly penalty or turnover would halt them in their tracks.
Glendale would get one final try in this game, in a half where a comeback never really seemed possible. The quick and explosive power of the Raptors that dominated the likes of the Huns, Mystic River, Utah, and New Orleans apparently wasn’t present today in a game that seemed to spell ONTARIO from the get go.
Perhaps it was the immense travel (trips to New England AND Canada within three weeks) that had them tired, or maybe it’s reached a point where teams are starting to know the book on the U.S.A’s most dominant club. Either way, this game ended with a final score of 43-25, a result most unfamiliar to many recent Raptor fans, and very welcoming to Blues fans.
If you consider yourself a fan of USA Rugby (or follow this blog), you've heard the names of these two teams before: Mystic River Rugby and the Austin Huns.
Hailing from the greatest state of our great nation (Massachusetts), Mystic River shocked many when they captured the National D1 Club title last year, one of the few Boston Championships that didn't come with controversey or a rash of haters. Even still, the desire and ability to win remains strong on the outskirts of the Hub.
Josh Smith, Head Coach of Mystic River, has the utmost confidence in his squad heading in. When asked what gave his team the best chance to win, Smith had this to say:
"This group of players have been together for quite a few years, these guys have played in a few playoff matches together. They should be ready for the big moments."
Well, that big moment will come this Saturday, when the defending champs will look to take on East Coast rivals New York Athletic Club. "They are a veteran squad with a great coaching staff." Smith said of their opponents. "They will make us work for everything in (the) attack."
And have to work they shall. NYAC has been a staple club of the North East for many many moons now, and very recently had a high-profile defeat over Old Blue of New York. Coach Smith acknowledged that there are areas where his team can improve, paticulary when it comes to executing inside the 22.
However, Mystic's greatest strength lies in their passing game, which nearly gave them the victory over the red hot Glendale Raptors two weeks ago. This is a facet of their game plan they will have to focus on if they hope to find an answer to the likes of NYAC players Nate Brakely, Seamus Kelly, and Harry Bennett.
While the Big Battle of the East (can I copywrite that?) is looming over Mystic and New York, West Coast will meet Deep South when San Francisco Golden Gate takes on the Austin Huns.
When you look at this match-up on paper, even the most impulsive of gambling men would hesitate to put their money down. SFGG has defeated Life West, Belmont Shore, Glendale, and a host of many others on their way to becoming one of the most dominant clubs of the past year. Meanwhile, the Austin Huns just won the Red River Conference title to put themselves in national contention for the first time since the club's founding in 1972, and are coming off a commanding showing in the MRC.
Huns Coach Eugen Eloff understands the challenge ahead of him and his team. "The standard will be higher. We wont do anything diffirent regarding preperations but realize we will have to be on top of our game, you only have one shot"
In your head, you should be able to hear loud and clear the emphasis on that last part because of how true it rings. "You only have one shot". Somebody cue the Eminem piano intro.
However, SFGG will not be allowing Austin to take their 'one shot' uncontested. Afterall, with players like Pila Huihui, who earned Man of the Match honors in a 90-0 playoff victory against ORSU, you have to expect a match that is going to get fast and competitive from the opening kick.
This is something Coach Eloff understands and anticipates. And although they are going against the same squad that last fell the dreaded Glendale Raptors, Coach Loffie doesn't see many clear disadvantages. "The only weakness or rather negative we have is that it's our 1st season together (lack of experience) where other teams have been together for a few seasons, but this is also an positive, we are the underdogs and have nothing to lose."
We are a fit side" said Eloff when asked what he sees as the potential advantages of his side "(we) have options for attack which makes is unpredictible and we can adapt to change." Those 'options' referred to by Eloff includes a gaggle of talented players such as returning Eagle Todd Clever, Captain Lomani Tongotongo, and Michael Reid, the team's wiley scrum-half who has battled injury on and off the last few weeks.
Both teams take to the pitch on Saturday. For Mystic River, it's about proving their title victory last hear was no fluke, for Austin, it's all about making a name ahead of the MLR's kick-off. Check back to Penguin Tundra for match results.
By Liam Madigan-Fried @madfried95
The rain was falling on an otherwise warm day in Malden, Massachusetts, a city located in the urban outskirts of Boston. The Glendale Raptors, riding an eight-game winning streak going in, walked onto the home pitch of the Mystic River Rugby Club, the current defending USA Club Champions, intent on extending that streak to nine games the same way they did with the Austin Huns and Rugby Utah Select XV squads in recent weeks. That mission was accomplished, but it was easier said than done.
The match began in an aggressive manner for Mystic River, as they were able to keep the ball inside Glendale territory through the use of a fluid and precision-laced passing game.
“They had a lot of continuity on offense.” Said Glendale flanker Brian Wanless. “They held their phases well, something that other teams haven’t been able to do so successfully against us.”
Mystic River Head Coach Josh Smith echoed that sentiment when asked what about his squad kept this game so tight. “I thought we did a pretty good job with our line speed (by the backs). That’s something we really identified the last couple of weeks.”
That speed created a fast-paced start for Mystic (at first), which seemed to pay off when winger Spike Armstrong connected with the first penalty kick of the day (he had three in total), putting the home team up 3-0 early in the first. However, Glendale would respond soon after when fullback Maximo De Achaval took an edge-of-the-touch-line run in for the try. The subsequent kick-after would be no good, something that would plague the Colorado squad for the remainder of their rainy, windy New England day.
Mystic River saw plenty of phases when it seemed they were on the verge of a try deep inside Glendale territory thanks to the efficiency of their wings, continuously putting the PRP Champs on their toes at the goal line. However, despite amazing efforts made by such players as Mystic winger Vini Daley, who was smashing through the Raptor defense all day, the experience and bulk of the Glendale defense (along with some ill-timed knock-ons) would prevent many of those phases from resulting in points.
As the game progressed, fans were held on the edge of their seat as each team would seem to gain enough meters to make a score appear inevitable, only to see an heart-wrenching turnover or penalty kill the momentum, thanks in large part to the wet and slippery conditions. Though Glendale was able to find the try zone a total of three times throughout the match, Mystic River was able to keep it close by taking successful advantage of three penalty kicks, at one point pulling ahead 16-15.
That lead, however, was not to last long. Many phase killing mistakes in the second-half resulted in the Sir calling for a scrum, something both teams saw their fair share of success and failure in. However, as the clock began to wind down in the match’s final minutes, many scrum penalties and subsequent free-kicks began to go Glendale’s way at a time when Mystic was desperately looking for points.
However, once it became clear the match was nearing its final breath, Glendale eventually stopped with its silly attempts at quick offloads and switches, opting for a ground-and-pound style to run down the clock.
When the match came to a close with a final of 22-16 in favor of Glendale, one thing was clear: Mystic River is a real and legitimate threat to any team hoping to claim elite status. “They’re a good team.” Says Raptors Head Coach Dave Williams. “And good for them. They won the National Championship last year for Division 1, (that’s why) we want to come out and play them, we’re always looking to play the best opposition we can.”
Mystic River will now look to the playoffs, where it hopes to defend its standing as Club Champions.
By Liam Madigan-Fried
Something many of us have know for months is finally coming to fruition. The organization known as Major League Rugby (MLR) will become the official competition of American Professional Rugby, replacing the train-wreck that was PRO. Nic Benson, a member of the MLR's media team, recently issued a press release on the leagues behalf, which can be read below:
Salt Lake City UT: "Beginning in 2018, Major League Rugby (MLR) will launch as a new professional rugby competition in North America. MLR will be the premier rugby competition in the United States. By drawing on the best domestic talent, MLR will create an intense, fast paced competition and a top-tier media product. MLR will introduce rugby to the American sports mainstream, provide a focal point for millions of existing fans and bring even more new supporters to the game. MLR will launch with members in: Glendale, CO; Kansas City, MO; Dallas, TX; Houston, TX; Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; Minneapolis, MN; and Salt Lake City, UT. MLR will announce a final team and venue list, player contract information, and 2018 schedule, in the coming months. Beyond 2018, MLR will expand to more cities with an emphasis on finding the right partners, markets and venues.
Developing the game of rugby is at the core of the MLR model. MLR will create local destinations where rugby fans and families can come together to celebrate the highest levels of the American game. MLR (stadiums) will be gathering places for rugby fans and local communities to gather around the game. By connecting the national to the local, MLR will invite America to join the unique, vibrant rugby family and discover its core values: integrity, passion, solidarity, discipline and respect.
MLR will reinvigorate the American rugby development pathway. By creating outreach programs to bring new players to the game and high-performance pathways to keep the best athletes in the sport, MLR will create the competitive environment to push the American game to the next level.
Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States and one of the most popular sports in the world, as evidenced by the strong reception it received at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Rugby’s rising domestic growth and wide-reaching global fan base combine to create a unique environment for a professional league to succeed in the American market. While hundreds of local clubs have helped the sport to take hold in the U.S. during the past decade, Major League Rugby is poised to unite these fans under a common banner as rugby enters the American sports mainstream"
From what we here at the Tundra have heard according to our own sources, is that the MLR's model is better suited to weather the initial logistics storm that plagued PRO, particularly when it comes to paying it's players.
There is more money due to more investors (with more still to come), and they won't be writing any personal checks. And, unlike PRO, the MLR will be integrating already established teams into the competition, with the Houston Strikers currently the only known expansion club.
And as for PRO? 2017 is the final year in a two-year deal they signed with USA Rugby, designating them as the USA's premier professional competition. Upon its expiration, the MLR's standing as the top rugby competition in America will be official.
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Penguin Tundra Sports Blog was created in 2016 by a very bored college student who was obsessed with Rugby and Football. That same college student knew how to write pseudo-intelligently, so what better way to show off than to create a blog. Along your journey though the Tundra's domain, you may come across outlandish opinions, horrible spelling errors, and some shit that is just outright wrong. Well then, you should comment, give my blog more attention, and we will have our day in internet court. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy talking about sports as much as I do.
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