CHAMPIONSHIPS!

10 May 2017

Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column

CHAMPIONSHIPS!

It’s that knockout time of year again, the perfect moment to become a subscriber to The Rugby Channel. Here’s a quick look at all of the recently completed championships we’ve brought you and the multitude more we’ll deliver in the very near future.

Last weekend on The Rugby Channel we showed thirteen LIVE matches, of which four were collegiate semifinals, five were collegiate title matches, two were second leg semifinals in the Greene King IPA Championships, and two determined semifinal matchups for the Guinness Pro12.

In coming weeks The Rugby Channel bring you the Guinness Pro12 Semifinals and Final, the two leg Finals of the Greene King IPA Championship, the USA Rugby College 7s National Championships with titles offered in three divisions, the USA Rugby Club Championships with five separate divisional winners, and one of the biggest prizes on offer in 2017, a qualification spot in the 2019 Rugby World Cup that the USA and Canada will do battle over in a home and away series!

If you don’t happen to have time to watch every single match from last weekend, check out TRC Report #50 for highlights from all the Collegiate Finals, the GKIPA semis, and the last two offering from the GP12 regular season. But if you do have some time to catch a few of the contests from the weekend, below are summaries of the action and previews of what’s ahead.  

MUNSTER 50 – 14 CONNACHT

The men in red were not messing around at Thomond Park on Saturday as they racked up a half century on the defending champs. The seven tries were just part of the package though as they also played cohesive defense in preparation for their semifinal on May 20th.

Munster must have had an inkling that Ulster was helping them up in Belfast by beating Leinster and opening the way for them to jump to the top of the GP12 ladder because they played like every score was vital and every try worthwhile.

SCARLETS 40 – 17 OSPREYS

Scarlets started slowly at home against their Welsh rivals but came back strong and thoroughly overwhelmed them in the end. The depth of talent on the Ospreys squad is certainly impressive with lots of high-profile names on their roster but the Scarlets are playing some outstanding rugby with less celebrated individuals that make up a superior team right now.

The big losers in Round 22 appear to be Leinster, who fell to Ulster as mentioned above, thus forcing them into a semifinal against a Scarlets team that looks ready to do some damage in the postseason. Leinster will definitely still be favored at home with a massively stacked team but I’ll bet they wish they were taking on the other Welsh playoff team on May 19th. 

YORKSHIRE CARNEGIE 18 – 20 EALING TRAILFINDERS

After a quality second half performance in the first leg semi at home, Ealing had something to prove on the road. The Trailfinders played a tough match that wasn’t decided until the death but in the end they got the victory, just not by enough to overcome the hole they dug themselves in the first meeting.

For Yorkshire, going through on aggregate is not the way they envisioned prepping for what promise to be two very difficult contests against London Irish but it’ll have to do. I’m certain they plan on fixing their issues and giving the Exiles their very best when they clash on successive Wednesday nights May 17th and 24th. 

LONDON IRISH 39 – 22 DONCASTER KNIGHTS

This was not the one-sided thrashing that the Irish administered to the Knights at Castle Park but it was still emblematic of the type of campaign they’ve had. Doncaster challenged them all over the park in the first forty but in the second, the Irish calmly tightened their defense and took their chances offensively to cruise into the finals.

Only once this season have London Irish not been able to claim victory in the GKIPA as they have methodically gone about the business of getting back to the Premiership. Yorkshire Carnegie are just the latest opposition standing in the way of them attaining their ultimate goal. I’m looking forward to a hard-fought finals series and as usual, can’t wait to watch it!

UC DAVIS 20 – 40 NOTRE DAME COLLEGE

These two teams also met in last year’s final and the second time around was a much better result for Notre Dame College as they were able to win the title in Marietta, Georgia. The match was much closer than the ending scoreline indicated, as the Falcons padded it with some late scores after leading by less than a try about three quarters of the way through the second half. Count me in for hoping that 2018 sees a rubber match between these two sides a year from now!

DAVENPORT UNIVERSITY 71 – 5 KENNESAW STATE

The doubt and tension inherent in all finals rugby was gone from this matchup after just a few minutes of action. That’s how long it took a very impressive Davenport team to impose their will and start scoring try after try. Kennesaw State were simply overwhelmed and had no answer for Davenport’s winning blend of power and aggression on both offense and defense. A second consecutive title for the Panthers could be the start of a long run. 

UC DAVIS 27 – 19 NOTRE DAME COLLEGE

The UC Davis women fared better than their male counterparts against Notre Dame College, winning a thriller to secure the 2017 Spring Championship. The Aggies looked to have locked up the triumph in the late going before the Falcons made it a one-point match with only a few minutes left to go. But instead of getting flustered they continued paying hard and scored a clinching try to end the sudden threat to their title hopes.

PENN STATE 28 – 25 LINDENWOOD UNIVERSITY

Penn State have been a dominant force in women’s college rugby for quite some time now but they had to fight right to the very end against Lindenwood to win yet another crown. The Nittany Lions seemed to have this match well in hand when they went up 25 - 6 in the second half but the other Lions roared back and eventually evened the score at 25-all before Penn State squeaked out the win on a penalty kick.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing these two sides in action again at the Collegiate 7s championships a couple of weeks from now! 

ST. MARY’S 30 – 24 LIFE UNIVERSITY

For the fifth time in five years St. Mary’s and Life met in the final and produced a classic. A big crowd at Saint Mary’s Stadium was kept on the edge of their seats by a back and forth affair that could have gone either way. The match wasn’t decided until the very last play and a different outcome at the end would not have been surprising or undeserved.

The key difference maker in the match was Gaels fullback Dylan Audsley who scored a try and made seven of his eight kicks from the tee to provide much of the scoring for his side.

GLENDALE RAPTORS WOMEN V NORCAL PELICANS – Saturday, May 13 at 3:00 PM ET

Here’s a special treat for our viewers, a women’s match between perennial power Glendale and a representative side from Northern California, the NorCal Pelicans. Originally this match was going to feature the Life West Gladiatrix taking on the Raptors in Rugbytown USA but even with the change there will be a heavy Gladiatrix presence in the Pelicans lineup.

Give this one a look and you’ll see an amazing venue and two athletic sides going at it on a gorgeous day in Colorado.

GLENDALE RAPTORS MEN V NORCAL PELICANS – Saturday, May 13 at 5:00 PM ET

And after you watch the women, get ready to see the men in action. Glendale has been virtually unstoppable this season but the Pelicans should provide some stiff opposition. This Raptors team is loaded with experience and includes numerous Eagles who are roaring into form in hopes of getting back into their national team kit this Summer.

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Of course I’ve always paid attention to the Six Nations and the Guinness Pro12 in its many forms over the years, but before this year I didn’t watch that much men’s and women’s college rugby, or the Women’s Seven Series, or collegiate sevens tournaments, or even all of the Eagles Tests because they were somewhat inaccessible.

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