By Brian Lowe, Date: 26/8/17
The USA Rugby League (USARL) Grand Final will be played Saturday and new champions will write their name in the record books.
South Conference champions the Atlanta Rhinos will face their North Conference rivals the New York Knights in the national championship game in Atlanta.
Neither team has won a USARL championship to date.
This is the USARL’s seventh year in existence. Since it broke away from the previous American National Rugby League (AMNRL) in 2011 to start up its own competition, the Philadelphia Fight has been the dominant team winning four championships. The Jacksonville Axemen and Boston 13s are the two other clubs to have clinched titles.
The Fight started this season as the reigning champions, but lost their first three games and couldn’t rebound in time to make the playoffs.
Both Atlanta and New York go into Saturday’s game with unbeaten records, although the Rhinos played out a high-scoring 30-30 tie with the Tampa Mayhem during the regular season.
This will be the Rhinos’ second tilt at a championship after having lost to Boston in the corresponding match two years ago.
Atlanta (6-0-1) have been the frontrunners in the South all season long and have thoroughly earned their place in the title decider.
They have potent strike weapons on their roster including captain Nick Newlin, Terence Williams and Tomu Osborne and if they can mesh one more time as they have been doing up to now, they have the ability to win their maiden championship.
The flipside is the New York Knights (10-0) have definitely been the team to beat in the North.
Under the coaching of Guillaume Cieutat, the Knights, who won a couple of championships while competing in the AMNRL, have been clinical sweeping all before them and will go into the game as favorites.
New York is stacked with game winners right across the field with the likes of Alex Foster and Josh Rice among them, and as Rice puts it, they will likely stay with what has been a winning strategy.
“We want to dominate the middle third of the field, hold on to the ball, complete our sets and wear them down,” he said.
“It’s not a very sexy or exciting game plan, but it’s what we’ve had success with and what we are going to stick with.”
The USARL championship final will be played at Life University in Atlanta, an institution specializing in chiropractic education and one which traditionally has been more synonymous with rugby union.