Standings have taken shape at the DII club rugby level and this weekend has some prime matchups. Here is a look at this weekend’s lineup:
In the Western Division; undefeated Wisconsin (3-0) team comes back home to face the South Side Irish (2-1) and the Bremer County Bucks (3-1) goes on the road against Des Moines (1-2).
Wisconsin has a lot of things going in their favor. Reloaded after a season in which they lost to Rocky Gorge in the national championship game, expectations are high for this team. Having recruited U-20 Eagle Andrew Hanske from the Badgers and lock Josh Riesser from Life, the pressure seems fitting.
“We think high expectations for this team are realistic,” Wisconsin President Max Zukowski said. “We are coming off a narrow win against Lincoln Park and are looking forward to the challenge the Irish always bring to us.”
The scores of their matches with South Side have heavily favored Wisconsin, but Zukowski says this Irish team is relentless and will play with a lot of pride in what has been coined, “The Hometown Throwdown.”
Depending on the Lincoln Park game, the Irish could jump into first place if they win. Wisconsin needs the victory take over first place (they currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Lincoln Park by virtue of last week’s 10-9 victory).
Bremer County has been a team that has done a lot with very little. They lost six guys from the semifinal squad last year, but recruited well and keep their core group of about 10-12 veterans together.
“We’ve managed to stay together and that has lead to us to consistently success over the past few years,” Bremer County Match Secretary Jesse Sathre said. “Despite their record, Des Moines has been getting better. We are aware of that and feel if we stick to our physicality and tackle well, we will be fine.”
Des Moines is off to a bit of a slow start and seems to either win or lose convincingly with losses to Eastside 31-7 and Cedar Rapids 50-12. Their lone victory came in demolishing fashion against the Westside Condors 50-12.
If Des Moines wins, they crawl out of the cellar and into the middle of the league standings. Bremer County could fall as far as three spots in the standings if they lose.
In the East Division; undefeated Pittsburgh (3-0) takes on the Cleveland Rovers (2-1) and Michiana (3-0) takes on the Grand Rapids (2-1). Both are matchups of the top teams and if either one-loss team pulls off an upset, they gain division supremacy.
For the Michiana Moose, it’s nice to finally come home after three road games and three victories. They take on a balanced Grand Rapids team for their first of four straight home games. Michiana coach Bart Bottorff says the team has been consistent with attendance in practice and it has put them in a successful position.
“Our training sessions have been well-attended and intense,” Bottorff said. “We have a good mix of veterans and 3-4 young athletes in our first 15. We’ve been able to spend a lot of time on ball skills, defensive patters and attacking space in training and it has definitely paid off.”
Bottorff expects a tough match this weekend.
“Grand Rapids always plays us well and every game is close,” he said. “The game will be physical and fast-paced and we expect their forwards and backs to do a lot of different things, which could cause problems. I expect our players to defend our home turf well and if we do that, we will be in perfect position to win a league title.
The other undefeated Pittsburgh will make the two and half hour trip to Ohio to take on a talented Cleveland Rovers squad. Though the league standings favor the Harlequins, it’s the Cleveland Rovers that feature the best stats, making this matchup that much more captivating.
Both are familiar each other and want nothing more than to steal a tough league game. With a win, Cleveland takes over first place outright with a point’s advantage. Pittsburgh needs the win to stay atop the league standings.