Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
FALL COLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIPS!
The Rugby Channel regularly brings you matches and tournaments from multiple levels of the sport and you can watch it all with an annual subscription for less than a dollar per week.
This past week is a good example. We began on Thursday and Friday with the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series LIVE from Dubai, showing every single match from the opener to the Cup Final.
Then on Saturday we wrapped up the Fall Tours with a thrilling international contest LIVE from Twickenham as red-hot England faced off against Australia.
We also brought you a couple of crucial LIVE Guinness Pro12 matchups from Round 10, Cardiff hosting Ulster and Leinster taking on Newport.
If you happened to miss any of this premium action, click on the link for TRC Report #30 and check it out.
In addition, The Rugby Channel also delivered a whole slew of free games LIVE from USA Rugby’s Collegiate Fall Championships in Greenville, South Carolina.
Let’s look at the matches from the weekend so that you can choose a few to watch in their entirety.
My favorite match of the tournament was the USA’s literally last-minute come-from-behind victory over Russia in their first Pool A clash. In what looked like a sure loss, the USA scored and converted with under a minute to go. The Eagles then immediately kicked off, regathered, and proceeded to get over the line at the death to record the victory over a Russia team that would go on to make the Cup semifinals.
On Day Two the USA had a pretty good match against Brazil in the eleventh place playoff. They dominated the first half before slipping on defense in the second half but managed to hold on and still come out on top.
These two wins were the high points for the USA women in Dubai but hopefully the victory over Russia, a quality opponent, will instill some needed confidence going forward.
Also worth a look are the three matches leading up to the Cup Final. Canada vs Fiji in the fifth-place playoff, Spain vs Ireland in the Challenge Trophy Final, and Russia vs England in the Bronze Final were all taut matches where some excellent rugby was played.
England made a very poor start to this match, got scored on early, held it together, and emerged victorious with their fourteenth consecutive win and thirteenth straight under coach Eddie Jones.
This match could have had a different outcome if Australia had capitalized on all of their early opportunities to put points on the scoreboard. England looked rattled early on and a little more killer instinct from the Wallabies might have resulted in a larger first half lead and forced a bigger comeback from the home side.
After a week of verbal attacks back and forth between Jones and Wallaby coach Michael Cheika, the players on the pitch did the talking with their play and it was England who came out ahead, just like their coach.
Jones’ comments in the aftermath of the win struck exactly the right tone. He essentially pledged that the focus must now shift to another Six Nations whitewash and he immediately quashed any notion that this team is in anywhere near the same class as the 2003 squad whose record number of wins they tied on Saturday.
Give this match a look and you’ll see a very good England team but one that definitely has significant room for improvement.
I’m certainly getting excited for the 2017 Six Nations, which The Rugby Channel will deliver to you when the tournament kicks off in February.
Cardiff started the year hot but have cooled significantly recently. Ulster was coming off a long break because of a weather canceled match in Round 9. It looked like the visitors were going to run away with this one but the Blues suddenly ignited in the latter part of the contest and made a game of it before Ulster shut them down to earn the win.
Ulster are definitely a team to watch heading into the second half of the Guinness Pro12 campaign. Scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar had a blinder at Cardiff Arms Park and always tends to pick up his play in big matches, of which Ulster has many to come in the rounds ahead if they want to cement a spot in the top four.
The Leinstermen looked solid in beating the Dragons. They managed to take all five points from the encounter and moved into second place on the Pro12 table, trailing Munster by points differential only. They will get even stronger once all of their internationals are back in the lineup.
Of course they’ll lose them again for the Six Nations but the depth they’ve built up to replace their stars should be sufficient to keep them at or near the top of the ladder.
Newport is mired in ninth place and looking nothing like a contender but they did play a decent second half in Dublin and could very well play spoiler in the latter stages of the campaign if they can replicate that kind of performance over a full eighty-minute match.
USA RUGBY FALL COLLEGIATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Notre Dame College dominated this match right from the get go, taking a big lead and never letting Bowling Green into the game. The Falcons’ try scoring wasn’t slowed down by the wet conditions and their defense was effective until the late going.
Their victory in the Fall Championship match earns them the right to return to the national championship game in May against the Spring champions. This affords them the opportunity to avenge the heartbreaking loss they suffered at the hands of UC Davis last April in the National Championship Final at St. Mary’s College.
Last season the Air Force Academy lost at this same stage of the playoffs to this same opponent. Their start in this battle had to be somewhat disheartening as they went down 8 – 0 to Connecticut midway through the first forty.
That deficit seemed to wake the Air Force up as they responded with a try of their own and then held the Huskies in check for the remaining time in the first half.
The second half saw Air Force notch two more tries and hold UConn scoreless to come away with a well-deserved victory.
This final was the only one on Sunday that earned a national championship, all the others just gave the victors a place in their division’s title game in May.
The Warriors from University of Wisconsin Whitewater definitely earned their championship laurels, beating a team in Furman that was not only playing in their home stadium but that had also knocked off the three time defending champs University of Minnesota Duluth the previous day.
The match was a tight affair and even though Whitewater never trailed, they didn’t put Furman away until the last quarter of the game.
In another rematch fixture, Davenport scored in the first minute against Winona State and never looked back, dominating the opposition in a convincing 37-0 win.
Based on the semifinal results the previous day where Winona cruised against the US Coast Guard Academy and Davenport struggled versus Vassar College, this one had seemed likely to be closer.
The holidays are the perfect time to purchase an annual subscription to The Rugby Channel for less than a dollar per week. The Gift of Rugby, for a loved one, a friend, a teammate, or for yourself is the best possible present for the rugby lover in your life!
Why is this the ideal moment to sign up? Because if you happen to have a little more free time over the holidays, now is the optimal period for catching up on all the outstanding rugby you’ve missed so far in 2016!
What better way to get ready for the 2017 Six Nations than to use our archive to watch the best matches from the 2016 edition of the tourney?
Same for the Guinness Pro 12. Now that the halfway mark is in sight and the drive for the playoffs is heating up, why not go back and watch your favorite team’s progress thus far or just get a feel for the overall season?
The logic holds true for the Americas Rugby Championship as well which will kick off again in February. Go back and look at the Eagles’ performance in the inaugural competition and you’ll be more than ready to cheer them on to victory in Austin and San Antonio.
There’s plenty of new and exciting rugby on tap at the end of 2016 and even more upcoming in 2017 so don’t wait another minute, subscribe now and let the spirit of rugby flow!