Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
GP12, GKIPA, & ARMY V NAVY!
A subscription to The Rugby Channel is an absolutely phenomenal deal. For less than a single dollar per week you get to watch an enormous amount of rugby from a wide variety of competitions and places.
Last week we showed you all thirty-four matches from the Kitakyushu Sevens and whether you watched all ten hours or just parts of it, you had to be impressed with the individual and team performances from the two days of competition.
And if that wasn’t enough rugby for you, then get ready for even more this weekend as we bring you three Guinness Pro12 matches with direct bearing on the upcoming playoffs, the first two semifinal legs of the Greene King IPA Championship, and the 100th clash between the British Army and the Royal Navy at Twickenham!
And if you don’t have time to go back and watch every Eagles game from Japan, give TRC Report #48 a look to see packages from all six of the United States’ matches, plus a truly extraordinary Cup Final between Canada and New Zealand that was decided on the final play!
The USA opened the weekend with two solid Pool C wins against Spain (19 - 10) and England (27 - 5) before running into eventual Cup finalists Canada. The Eagles only trailed their northern rivals by two points at the break but the Canadians scored three more tries in the second half to run out convincing winners (29 - 12).
The USA next met Fiji in the Cup Quarterfinals. This was a team they had beaten the last four times they’d faced them and initially it looked like the USA was going to make it five straight as they took a seven point lead into halftime. In the second half the USA made some unforced errors that gifted the Fijians a couple of vital tries and the eventual victory (26 - 19), despite a late comeback attempt by the Americans.
The fifth place semifinal was another battle that the USA could have won as they lost to pool opponents England. Once again they went up early, fell behind, and then staged a strong comeback that fell just short (26 - 24).
The tournament ended on a positive note for the United States as they walloped France (31 - 14) to take seventh place overall.
The USA had a couple of players who stood out in Japan. Naya Tapper for her tryscoring and Alev Kelter for basically everything she did, including mastering restart kicks. But there is also plenty of young talent on this squad and a tournament win in either Langford or Clermont-Ferrand is not out of the question.
Of course, in order to do that the USA is going to have to beat New Zealand, and as Canada found out at Mikuni World Stadium that is no easy task. The Canadians must have felt they had victory in hand on Sunday before New Zealand scored two tries at the end to snatch it away and take the gold medal. If you only watch one match from the tourney, make it this one!
The top two stories from this week’s edition of my favorite worldwide rugby program involve 125th anniversaries as Waikaia from the northern part of Southland and Tukapa from the Taranaki region both celebrated this significant milestone.
The clubs are in different areas and circumstances but both highly value their history and their future. The clubs play crucial roles in their communities and will continue to do so through their focus on junior rugby. Give the episode a look and you’re sure to enjoy it.
Leinster are at the top of the table and would like to remain there, especially now that they’re finished in the European Cup. Winning the Guinness Pro12 is now their sole focus and finishing with two wins over Glasgow and Ulster is definitely on the agenda. A home playoff berth is clinched, now it’s about building momentum for the postseason.
Sixth place Glasgow are still technically in the hunt for the playoffs but keeping that slim knockout round dream alive involves getting a bonus point win over Leinster and hoping that other results go their way. The best part for us though, is that they will absolutely be up for this match and raring to go.
This is the match of the weekend for sure. Ospreys are in fourth with 65 points and Ulster are right behind them in fifth with 64. In their first meeting back in Round 5, Ospreys charged out of the gate early to score a converted try in the fifth minute and were then completely shut down by the Ulster defense for the next seventy-five and ended up losing 9 – 7.
Not too long ago Ospreys were eyeing a home semifinal, now they’re struggling to right the ship and hang onto any spot in the semis. A big performance in Swansea would do the trick and set them up nicely for next week’s face off against Scarlets.
Ulster’s chances were hurt by the close loss to Munster in Round 20 and they know they have to beat Ospreys to realistically be in position to secure a playoff slot. A win doesn’t guarantee them anything but it does put them into a situation where they can at least control their own destiny.
Everything is on the line for these two teams on Saturday and that’s likely to produce some intense and hard-fought rugby and I can’t wait to watch it.
CONNACHT V SCARLETS – Saturday, April 29 at 2:35 PM ET
Connacht played tough against Leinster last time out and this week against third place Scarlets promises more of the same. At this point they are playing for their fans and for pride which makes them dangerous to a side like Scarlets that can’t afford any let up as they look to maintain their rung on the ladder and increase their points total from their current 67.
Scarlets have quietly had a remarkable campaign where they started horribly and then racked up wins against nearly everyone they faced, including Munster at home. A loss in Galway would undo a tremendous amount of recovery work but I’m sure coach Wayne Pivac will have his team ready to compete at the Sportsgound.
Yet another LIVE match on The Rugby Channel that you won’t want to miss!
The Greene King IPA Championship has a different way of determining who will win the title than most other rugby competitions. The finalists must come out on top of a home and away semifinal and then win a home and away final as well.
The Ealing Trailfinders finished third on the table in 2016/17 which has earned them two more matches against Yorkshire Carnegie, a side they have yet to beat this year in two previous attempts. All of the matches have been relatively close so there will be some belief in an upset amongst the Trailfinders and their supporters.
Yorkshire Carnegie would like to get back to the Premiership and that process begins this weekend. They last played at the top level in 2011 as Leeds Carnegie. They ended the 2016/17 regular season second on the log with 74 points.
DONCASTER V LONDON IRISH – Sunday, April 30 at 10:00 AM ET
Doncaster Knights are no stranger to the playoffs. Last year they split the two finals with Bristol but lost out on aggregate points differential. This year they wrapped up the regular season with a fourth place finish on 58 points but will face the competition favorites London Irish in the semifinals.
London Irish have beaten the Knights both times they faced them this season – most recently 22 - 5 two weeks ago - and in fact have only lost once in twenty-two fixtures in 2016/17.
This postseason for London Irish is all about getting back into the Premiership so look for a clinical performance on Sunday.
For the second year in a row, The Rugby Channel is proud to bring you LIVE coverage of the British Army taking on the Royal Navy. This annual fixture started back in 1907 and has been going strong ever since. It regularly draws sellout crowds to Twickenham and is watched around the world.
This will be the 100th official meeting of these two teams – it wasn’t played during both world wars – and Army leads the series with 60 wins, 35 losses, and 4 draws.
To check out the intensity of the rivalry and the emotion involved, check out last year’s 29 - 29 draw from our archive.
Get your subscription to The Rugby Channel right now so that you can catch all the action this weekend. Don’t miss a minute more of quality action from the Guinness Pro12 because with the playoffs looming, the intensity level ratchets up accordingly.
Subscribe Now and watch the closing rounds, the semifinals and the final, all LIVE on The Rugby Channel.