In the Mystic/Atlanta/PAC/Metropolis, two teams on a roll are pitted against each other.
Metropolis, which thundered through qualification, winning their Midwest playoff games and their CR3 crossover by an average score of 58-13, are better now than they were in the spring. With some players developing through the Spearhead Rugby Academy, they can score from anywhere, putting to rest the old idea that Midwest rugby is staid and slow.
PAC, for their part, have struggled a little bit more, having to really push to win their playoff game against Monmouth. They dominated the Mid-Atlantic, however. So this will be a clash of teams that are used to winning. Metropolis are the high flyers, and PAC the one that needs to play smart defense and dominate set piece.
Head Coach David Etches was lamenting PAC’s missed tackles, but he does have a few scorers to lean on to make up for that, namely Seta Palamo and Greg Suellentrop.
The other game is a bit of a mystery. Mystic River has made it this far, and perhaps it’s a bit of a surprise.
“If you asked me at the beginning of the year whether we’d make the round of 16 I’d have thought you were crazy,” said Head Coach Nick Murphy. “The young players we’ve got have really come along.”
But Mystic lost Chris Tofte, their most experienced back, in their playoff win over Schuylkill River. And they also have lost some of the young players, who wanted one more season with their classmates at U19. So a team whipped into shape by Murphy and Jake Sprague will not have a lot of depth as they try to surprise the Atlanta Renegades.
Atlanta, for their part, know that a loss means they have to finally bid goodbye to player-coach Garry Sullivan. He is moving with his family to Florida, a move, he said, is the first one he’s made uninfluenced by rugby.
So the ‘Gades will want to finish strong if only for that reason.
“We’ve been looking good the past two months, and we came through pretty well against Cincinnati,” said Sullivan. “We felt though we left one or two tries on the field, and we’ll need those in playoff rugby.”
Nate Rogers is combining well with Sullivan to provide veteran leadership in the backs, while Luke Waikamakama and Rod Casear provide the fireworks.
“But the backbone of the team is the tight five,” said Sullivan. “They control the tempo. They put in the hard work. If they can do that, we could do something.”
Looking at the scores building up to this bracket, Metropolis seems to be the team. But PAC is really tough with their backs against the wall. The Altanta Renegades know no one thinks South club rugby outside of Marietta is any good, so they have a lot to prove. And Mystic has nothing to lose.
Mystic River v. Atlanta Renegades
PAC v. Metropolis