Championship weekend of the 2012 Rugby Super League is finally here, and squaring off for the title are New York Athletic Club (NYAC) and Old Puget Sound Beach (OPSB).
NYAC take on OPSB at the dedicated rugby field at Magnuson at 3pm local time in Seattle.
Curtain raiser games will include Washington v Oregon U17s and U19.
This is a classic battle between a team that can score from anywhere, and a team that won’t stop defending. NYAC has an excellent defense, giving up only 15 points a game. With Conor Coyne anchoring a small but tough front row, and James Denise and Bryan Doyle a truly impressive second row, AC can control games in tight. And we haven’t even discussed their back row, featuring Eagle Lou Stanfill, in top form.
For OPSB, then, their strength has to be in the backs. Wili Rasileka and Pate Tuilevuka get things going inside and then Fili Botitu, Miles Craigwell and Mike Palefau are all 7s internationals who can score tries.
The big battle might be around the base f the scrum, where Emosi Vucago is a burst of energy, and Mike Petri is as precise and fit and smart a scrumhalf as there is in the business.
Some intangibles come into play this week also. The USA Eagles has a training camp this week at West Point as the team prepares for the June Test Match series against Canada, Georgia and Italy. Six players – Brian Doyle, Lou Stanfill, Mike Petri and Toby L’Estrange from NYAC and Andrew Durutalo and Alipate Tuilevuka from OPSB all participated in that camp, and then returned on Friday.
Who wins this game? Conventional wisdom says go with the team that plays defense, kicks goals, and gets the set piece right. That’s NYAC.
But conventional wisdom also says, the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins. If AC drops the ball early, or is sloppy in the rucks, OPSB will punish them with tries, and can run up a big lead early.
But if the AC is careful, they win.