Just as soon as it started, it’s almost done. Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference (NCRC) play has only two weeks left in the regular season, and what an eventful year it has been. Despite the only seed being locked already, every coach will tell you there’s never an excuse to stop.
Western Washington (3-4) will take on Oregon (1-5) for their last home game of the year. Oregon has struggled a bit, but their record is in no way an indication of their effort on the pitch. Coach Duffin McShane knows how to prepare his boys for any match against any opponent.
Western has turned a few heads this year. The Vikings got off to very slow start to their year with four straight losses, but somehow they have found a spark under coach Colin Campbell. Their most recent victory was against Washington State, and they would love nothing more than to keep their momentum going for another home game.
In Moscow, Idaho, it will be the host Vandals (1-6) against Washington (2-4). The tough times continue for Idaho, who are making a firs-year transition to DI rugby. Their lone victory came against Western, but they’ve since faced stiff competition, which hasn’t helped. However, you can never write off any team in this league, especially when a flyhalf like Philip Vrontamitis has a great leg.
The Huskies have had arguably the toughest year. They didn’t get started until week 4 against Oregon and, due to some weather conditions, had to play a lot of games in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, they're looking to get back in the win column and take momentum into Pullman, Wash. next weekend for the rugby version of the Apple Cup, and have a great shot with scrumhalf Justin Santos’s speed and awareness on the pitch.
Eastern Washington (2-3-1) will take on Central Washington (5-1) on their home pitch in Cheney, Wash. Eastern has the momentum after their victory last weekend and will be looking to make a strong showing against an always tough Central side. They are led by flanker Eric Populus, who continues to be consistent with scoring (20 points; fifth in league) and kicking (60%; third in league).
Though they aren’t eligible for the playoffs due to their other side being in DI-A, the Wildcats have made the most of their season. Having gone undefeated since week one, the Wildcats have outscored opponents 190-87, which speaks volumes about their depth.
Last, but not least, is the matchup of Oregon State (7-0) and Washington State (3-3-1). The Cougars were in the playoff hunt until last weekend’s loss to Western Washington in Bellingham, Wash. Coach Matt Hudson and the Cougars traveled without a full squad and may have taken the Vikings a little too lightly, but nonetheless, there are no excuses.
WSU will look to outside center Jordan Rehwaldt to damage a tough OSU backline and prop Robert Marquez to get some strong scrum work against a balanced forward pack.
As it’s been stated before, Oregon State has lived up to all expectations. The Beavers have been tested and delivered all seven times. Coach Anthony Lally has done a great job with his squad, and the Beavers look to represent the Pacific Northwest well in a few weekends in Palo Alto, Calif. for the Sweet 16. The Beavers will be led this weekend by wing and scoring machine Nate Kimmel, as well as captain Mike Gamm.