Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
GP12, GKIPA, & COLLEGE 7s!
If you already have a subscription to The Rugby Channel then this is going to be an incredible weekend for you.
Right out of the gate on Wednesday it’s the first leg of the Greene King IPA Championship final, LIVE from Headingley as Yorkshire Carnegie and London Irish clash to see who can take the advantage into the second leg next week when the contest moves to the Madejski Stadium.
LIVE on Friday it’s Leinster and Scarlets meeting at the RDS in Dublin to determine which side will continue on to the Guinness Pro12 Final at the Aviva Stadium on May 27th.
Then on Saturday Munster and Ospreys will do battle, LIVE at Thomond Park in Limerick to earn the other berth in the GP12 Final.
That’s three fantastic matches that are sure to thrill, but that’s only the beginning of this weekend’s excitement because we’ll also deliver the USA Rugby College 7s National Championships, a total of 111 LIVE matches from two pitches at Infinity Park in Rugbytown USA.
If you haven’t yet purchased your annual pass to watch all the amazing rugby we offer, then now is a great time to open your wallet and let your TV, phone, laptop, and tablet be filled with the sheer awesomeness of this beautiful sport!
And if you need further convincing before you buy, check out TRC Report #51 for a free look at last weekend’s highlights and a look ahead at what’s upcoming.
This was a mismatch right from the get-go as the Pelicans were made up almost entirely of Life West players - who are not only really good, but have been playing well together - and the Raptors who are a very new team just getting their feet wet at this level.
The Pelicans were very impressive in their single-mindedness and their discipline. They quick-tapped and ran almost every penalty all game long and were constantly putting the Raptors under pressure in all phases of play. It was easy to see from their performance on Saturday exactly why they are becoming a force in women’s club rugby.
It may seem counterintuitive but getting absolutely shellacked in a rugby match can be a valuable experience for a young team as you learn to deal with adversity and fully recognize the necessity of playing hard for eighty minutes no matter what the scoreboard says.
The mismatch was almost exactly the same for the men but it went the other way. The Pelicans were a thrown together side that despite having a bit of talent, looked exactly like what they were, a bunch of guys who met on the way to the match.
The Raptors were the opposite, well-drilled, communicative, and able to rely on their experience and continuity. It’s always hard to tell in a blowout fixture like this one but the Raptors are looking again like they are at least one of, if not the best team in the country. Having six current and a bunch of former Eagles certainly helps!
I doubt that many other top teams have as wide an age range of players as the Raptors do, from 22-year-old new Eagle Bryce Campbell to 40+ Mose Timoteo who earned his first cap in 2000 when Campbell was probably in Kindergarten.
I am a big fan of this format where each team gets a home game and the winner is determined by aggregate scoring. It puts immediate pressure on the first host side to either win big or risk having to do major work away from home.
There is an enormous amount at stake for these clubs over the next couple of Wednesdays. Victory earns a return to the Premiership, and that means a whole lot more money, prestige, and attractiveness to players who are in search of a place to call home next year.
Yorkshire Carnegie lost both of their matches to London Irish during the 2016/17 campaign, the first one by a lot on the road and the second by a little at home. They are not coming into this fixture with much momentum either, having lost their second leg semifinal at home to the Ealing Trailfinders after a solid win on the road.
London Irish have been building for this moment since the day they got relegated. The entire year has been about these two matches now before them and it seems unlikely that they will suddenly suffer from a lack of concentration or preparedness. They are the favorites, now they just have to go out and play like it.
After leading the competition for most of the season, Leinster stumbled a little in the late going when they had already wrapped up a home semifinal and weren’t playing their best possible lineup. Missing out on top of the table honors to Munster won’t have any impact on their play on Friday though, because they are on a mission to earn something that actually matters, a Guinness Pro12 title.
Scarlets started the campaign horribly, initially looked like they were going to end up nearer the bottom of the table than the top, then transformed themselves into one of the most dangerous sides in the competition. They beat Leinster at Parc Y Scarlets and Munster in Thomond Park so they obviously have the capability to pull off an upset in this semifinal.
I can’t wait to watch it unfold at the RDS, should be a barnburner!
Munster was rocked by the untimely passing of their coach Anthony Foley in October and I’m sure he’ll be in all the player’s and supporter’s thoughts on Saturday. From the depths of their grief they have forged a way to honor his legacy, by playing the type of rugby he championed, hard-nosed, aggressive, controlled and uncompromising. They have to be the emotional favorites heading into this weekend but feelings don’t win rugby matches, physicality does and they’ve got it in spades.
Ospreys obviously played enough quality rugby to make the postseason but their soaring mid-season form never re-appeared in the last couple of months as they finished with three wins and five losses down the stretch. But don’t be fooled, Ospreys are one of the most talented teams in the GP12 and their flair and offensive firepower could be re-ignited at any moment.
I’m almost more excited about this semi than the first one and am counting the hours until it kicks off!
There are three titles on offer this weekend, Men’s Division 1 and 2, plus a women’s bracket. Like most college rugby events, super enthusiasm is the norm at these championships and every team arrives with hopes of taking home some hardware.
One of the great things about sevens is that with a few good players, solid discipline, and quality teamwork you can go a long way. The biggest and strongest programs don’t always win, the underdog factor is fully in effect and upsets are always looming.
Friday, May 19th will see just the Men’s 1st division in action in the stadium as they will play sixteen matches beginning at 6:00 PM Eastern Time.
On Saturday, May 20th at 11:00 AM ET the Men’s 2nd division and the Women will begin pool play and then wrap it up by evening, while the Men’s 1st division will finish up their preliminary matches and move on to the quarters.
At 11:00 AM on Sunday, May 21st the knockout matches will run from start to finish, eventually resulting in three champions being crowned.
Plenty of good, entertaining stuff to watch but the highlight was definitely the part about the draw held in Japan that determined the pool lineups for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
There were some surprises and interesting matchups produced by the randomness of the selection process that I’m sure will fuel discussion over the next 28 months.
The draw brings reality to the USA Eagles qualification matches this Summer against Canada, which will make for outstanding viewing LIVE on The Rugby Channel once you become a subscriber!
As usual, this show is filled with worthwhile tidbits of Kiwiana and some decent rugby as well. My favorite part came at the end with 58-year-old Inglewood club chairman Gavin Midgley who is still playing eighty minutes a week in the front row for his team. He possesses the perfect attitude and reasoning for his decision. They needed him and he still enjoys playing!
Once again, The Rugby Channel is providing you with more LIVE rugby than you can probably watch in a single weekend.
Even the most devoted sevens fan will have to choose between matches happening simultaneously on different fields at the National Championships in Glendale.
And that’s precisely why we also offer Video On Demand as part of your subscription, allowing you to go back in time and watch whatever you missed from our extensive archive.
Now is the time, don’t let yourself miss any more glorious rugby, make the decision and Subscribe Now!