The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast unions clash in the Round of 32 Saturday, with the top two seeds from each league playing host to the bottom two of the other.
As MARFU's second seed, Norfolk hosts New York Rugby Club Saturday to decide who advances to take on Palmer in the National Round of 16 May 12-13 in Pittsburgh, Pa.
These two teams met in the 2010 Round of 32, again in Norfolk, Va., with the Blues edging NYRC in a close game. Last year, NYRC fell to Potomac Athletic Club in the Round of 32, while the Blues advanced to the quarterfinals before being ousted by the Boston Irish Wolfhounds 11-5.
Norfolk sports an above-average backline, anchored by centers Ed Stockunas and Drew Rogers, so they’ll try and get them clean ball often.
“If they get release, I think they can run with anybody in the country,” said Norfolk coach Chris Porter of his midfield combo. “We’re looking forward to spin the ball to our backs, let the backs play, and then have our forwards play off of them and keep them moving forward.”
Norfolk is fresh off of a 45-28 comeback victory over PAC. The Blues trailed 21-5 at halftime, and poured in 40 second-half points. After beating up on all their prior spring competition soundly, the PAC challenge came at the right time.
“I think being down 16 points to PAC and coming back showed a lot for us,” said Porter. “It was the pressure that the guys needed…I think being down to PAC is actually a pretty good thing for us as a team.”
As the Northeast's fourth seed, Monmouth makes the trip to PAC. The New Jersey club has had some turnover from the fall, but retain their lethal midfield trio of flyhalf Evan Fitzgerald and centers Joe Lucarelli and Eric Daneman.
Monmouth played a tough schedule to prep for the postseason, going up against DII powerhouse Doylestown.The Pennsylvania club jumped out to a 17-0 lead, but Monmouth recovered and was able to secure a comeback win.
"It was a really good test. I was really happy with that game," said Monmouth coach Pat Moroney. "Doylestown are a great team. I think they’ll do well in the DII championships. They play a good, tough style of rugby,a nd I think they’re a very similar club to us size wise, so we match up really well against them."
As the second seed out of the Northeast, the Boston Irish Wolfhounds host the Pittsburgh Harlequins. The Wolfhounds, which reached the DI semifinals last year, are heavy favorites to knock off Pittsburgh. But the Harlequins are hosting the Rounds of 16 and eight, and aren't looking forward to doing so without playing in them.
The other match-up of these unions sees Northeast champ Mystic River host Schuylkill River. The Boston-area side should advance to the Sweet 16, though a 7s match between these two would project to be more competitive.