Mathew Brown – The Rugby Channel Column
APC & TRC COLLEGE RUGBY!
Leinster, Navy, Samoa A, and the men’s and women’s Glendale Merlins all came away with victories last Saturday on The Rugby Channel and if you were a subscriber you could have seen it all LIVE from Dublin, Annapolis, Montevideo, and Glendale.
Or if you didn’t happen to have an entire Saturday to devote to watching stimulating rugby from across the globe, you could have used TRC’s Video On Demand option and watched all five matches whenever you wanted to, creating your own personalized viewing schedule.
What you would have seen in either case was a hard-fought contest at the Aviva Stadium between archrival Irish provinces, a second-half blowout of one US military academy by another at the Prusmack Rugby Complex, a couple of ultimately insufficient but determined fightbacks by a USA Selects side at Estadio Charrua, an exciting tryfest by a pair of elite men’s clubs and a massive WPL clash featuring two of the best teams in the nation at Infinity Park.
That’s quite a sampling from the Guinness PRO14, Collegiate Division 1A, World Rugby’s Americas Pacific Challenge, elite level domestic men’s club, and Women’s Premier League action, for which you would have paid less than a single dollar to enjoy.
Now is really, really, definitely the time to get an annual subscription to The Rugby Channel because at the end of this week the cost is going up to $7.99 per month – which is still an absolute bargain – so Subscribe Now and lock in a year’s worth of the very best variety of rugby offered anywhere.
Here’s a look back at what happened on Saturday and what’s upcoming this week on The Rugby Channel.
Matches between these two never disappoint. Watching them do battle makes it very easy to understand how Ireland has been able to reach and maintain their number four world ranking, relying mostly upon the talent available in those red and blue jerseys.
Munster is generally able to dominate set pieces against nearly every other squad in the PRO14 but when they play Leinster they’re forced to settle for coming out even, which definitely puts more pressure on the other parts of their game. Their usually stifling defense is also severely tested by Leinster’s speed and attacking acumen.
The difference in this match proved to be the boot of Leinster flyhalf Jonathan Sexton as he nailed two conversions and three penalties while Munster outscored the home side three tries to two but added only a single conversion. In doing so, Sexton also became Leinster’s all-time leading scorer, passing former Argentine international Felipe Contepomi.
It’s really fun to watch the powerful forwards from these squads go at it for eighty minutes. Locks Devin Toner and Scott Fardy for Leinster both had big matches, as did flanker Josh van der Flier. For Munster the standouts were number eight CJ Stander and flanker Peter O’Mahony, who was his usual abrasive and aggressive self.
Munster are currently in second place behind unbeaten Glasgow in Conference A and Leinster sit in third, trailing Ulster and Scarlets in Conference B. When they meet again the day after Christmas at Thomond Park in Limerick it’s certain to be another thrilling clash for your viewing pleasure on The Rugby Channel.
The Rugby Channel’s College Match of the Week featured the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy playing for the Lt. Col. Kevin M. Shea Memorial Cup. Both academies have long and storied rugby traditions but on Saturday it was Navy that ran away with the win by completely dominating the second half after a relatively close first half scoreline.
After crossing the line once and kicking two penalties while allowing just one easily converted intercept try, the midshipmen ran in six tries in the second forty and were able to hold the Zoomies scoreless to secure the lopsided win.
The Air Force will get another chance to show off their rugby prowess when they face Colorado State on Saturday, October 21st at 3:00 PM ET as the first match of a tripleheader on The Rugby Channel.
Before watching these matches from the Americas Pacific Challenge it’s important to remember that this is a development tournament and the ultimate goal is give younger talent a chance to shine on a somewhat bigger stage than they may be used to. Confidence gained by playing well in these matches can often later result in significant improvement when these players put on an Eagles shirt.
That being said, the Selects performance in the opening round of the APC versus Samoa A was both satisfying and disappointing. The satisfying part was the way the team gamely fought back from large deficits in both the first and second halves. In both instances they managed to score a couple of solid tries that first got them back in the match and then made the eventual scoreline more respectable.
The disappointing parts were the slew of unforced errors that wasted plenty of tryscoring opportunities, especially in the first forty, and the red card for punching early in the second stanza that forced the Selects to play man down the rest of the way.
Last year the USA side also got off to a rough start, getting hammered by the Fiji Warriors 62-12 but then responded with a quality win over Canada A. Let’s hope that pattern repeats itself when they take on Uruguay A on Wednesday!
Having crushed common opponents Mystic River and New York Athletic Club, Old Blue came into this match with expectations of at least giving the Merlins a run for their money but they left with no such illusions after eighty minutes of not being able to stop the rampant offense of the home side.
The visitors did score five tries, amassing more points against the Merlins than all of their other opponents this Fall combined, but they allowed 34 points in the first half and 42 in the second for a total of 76.
Even when not at full strength the Merlins are a threat to score from anywhere because they have backrowers with the ability to pilfer possession from any breakdown and turn defense into immediate attack. With Shaun Davies running the show at scrumhalf and flyhalf Will Magie’s deadly accurate boot, the Merlins are a dangerous outfit with few noticeable weaknesses.
As well as the men are playing, the Glendale women are probably the more entertaining team to watch at the moment because of their sheer grit and determination. Their second win this season over the All Blues was impressive not because it was comprehensive and pretty but because it was imperfect and ugly.
The lineout was a disaster all night for the Merlins, there were too many missed tackles and unnecessary penalties, and they dug themselves a hole in the early going. And yet they managed to not panic, continued to play aggressive rugby, and never shied from the physicality that Berkeley brought to every phase of play.
Sitting in first place in the Blue Conference with 25 competition points and a perfect 5-0 record the Merlins are looking strong to enter the playoffs as a number one seed in Tucson. Your next opportunity to see them LIVE on The Rugby Channel will be on Saturday, October 21st at 7:00 PM ET when they square off against the 2016 WPL champs, the San Diego Surfers.
The hosts got off to a good start on Saturday by beating a physical Tonga A team 34-25. In last year’s Round 3, Uruguay beat the USA team 47-15 for their only triumph of the tourney. In order to earn a victory on Wednesday, the USA is going to have to figure out how to deal with what is certain to be a very strong Uruguayan pack of forwards.
Looking forward to watching this one!
The Rugby Channel’s College Match of the Week will be a good one as non-conference opponents Dartmouth and Navy go at it in Hanover.
Dartmouth has been smashing their Ivy League opposition, outscoring Cornell, Harvard, Penn, and Yale 231- 35.
Navy is coming off their big win over the Air Force and will be looking to travel strong to New Hampshire.
Canada A got smashed 71-17 by the Argentina XV in their first outing and their second fixture is against Tonga A. The third round match between these two North American rivals may not be for the championship but it will definitely be hard-hitting and filled with emotion and pride because It’s always a big match when Canada and the USA meet, no matter where or at what level.
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