The Atlanta Renegades are ensconced in first place in the USA Rugby South DI club league, but new coach Garry Sullivan isn't totally satisfied.
"It started off pretty well," Sullivan said of his team's 48-15 road win at Boca Raton. "For the first time this season we were able to put together five or more phases a few times. We had been trying to score too early. But I was still not happy with how many points we left on the field. Lack of patience, one bad pass, led to us leaving about 20 points out there, and if we're serious about making the playoffs, we need to convert those chances into points."
Still, a road bonus-point win is a good thing.
"We traveled with 19 guys and we were missing five starters," explained Sullivan. "So it was a good game to give the guys some time."
Some of those players took the opportunities. Kevin Ndongi was man of the match with two tries on the wing, while two football converts, No. 8 Veil Taumoefolau and flanker Omarr Pittman had major impacts.
Sullivan himself is a late addition. He moved to the Renegades this season from Life University as it became evident Life is going with youth in its Super League squad. He is now player-coach of the Renegades DI side, with Rod Seddon working as Director of Rugby for the club as a whole. Sullivan was quick to point out that while he coaches the team, Wilmer Lord is the captain and has led well.
"I don't want to be coach and captain; I don't think that's a good idea," he said. "The players choose the captain and that's worked out well."
Looking ahead now, Life is 2-1, having lost one match to Life (whose games count in the standings, but with Life not being part of the playoff picture). Everyone is expected to lose to Life, and so the plan is to mitigate those losses to keep the points difference under control. Atlanta was a +33 against Boca on Saturday, while Charlotte was a -66 against Life.
"It all matters," said Sullivan. "We are shooting for 1st place, because 1st is the only team that gets a home playoff game. With two games coming up against Charlotte, those are the keys one for us to achieve that goal."
The South league restructure included ramifications for South teams failing to make away playoff games in the past. As a result, only the 1st place team in the South hosts a Midwest playoff team (4th seeded Metropolis). South #2 and #3 travel (to the Cincinnati Wolfhounds and Chicago Lions, respectively), and the Midwest #1, Palmer, plays no one and moves on to the Round of 16 in a bye.
So it's a simple equation for the 'Gades. Win and play at home.
"In the next few games we expect to have our full 22, and we expect to improve," said Sullivan.