By Brian Lowe Date: 31/7/18 (Photo: Allene Rachal)
As we move into the month of August, the USA Rugby League national clubs competition has moved into the postseason.
In fact, the first round of the playoffs has already been determined in the North Conference, while in the South, the final round of the regular season wrapped up at the same time.
Under a restructured format this year due to there being an uneven number of teams in the competition, six of the seven teams in the North qualified for the playoffs and as of this past weekend we’re now down to the final four.
In the opening round of the playoffs, the #3 seeded White Plains Wombats and #4 New York Knights posted victories to advance to the next stage.
After overcoming a slow start, the Wombats dispatched the #6 Delaware Black Foxes 52-12 to set up a showdown with #2 seed Philadelphia Fight in Philly this weekend.
“We left some things on the field that we could’ve done better, but at the end of the day we got the result we needed to advance,” said White Plains player/coach CJ Cortalano.
In the second game, the 2017 grand finalists Knights managed to hold on to beat the #5 Boston 13s 24-22, but only secured the win in the last two minutes of the game.
New York head coach Guillaume Cieutat was less than impressed with his side’s showing.
“Our ball control and discipline were abysmal. Boston was outstanding in the courage and determination they displayed.”
The result sees the Knights having to face the unbeaten #1 seed Brooklyn Kings in the North Conference semifinals.
In the South Conference, the Jacksonville Axemen (6-0) put their stamp of authority on proceedings with a comprehensive 46-6 victory over the reigning champion Atlanta Rhinos (3-3) in the final round of the regular season.
It was pretty much all one-way traffic from the get go with Jacksonville firing on all cylinders.
Axemen head coach Sean Rutgerson says he was particularly pleased with his team’s defensive efforts.
“We set the tone in defense and we had control. They did score one try but I’m happy with what we did.”
In the other conference matchup, newbies Southwest Florida Copperheads (0-6) played by far their best game of the season to eventually fall just short of the Tampa Mayhem (3-3) by 40-32.
It was tit-for-tat all the way through with the Mayhem only icing the game in the dying stages.
“We committed far fewer penalties than we have all season which kept us in this game,” said Copperheads founder Curtis Goddard.
“We also did a better job of making the opposition play through a full set of six and finish with a kick.”
The South playoffs get underway this weekend with #1 Jacksonville hosting the #4 Copperheads and #2 Atlanta at home to #3 Tampa.
The USARL national championship game is scheduled to be played on Saturday, August 25 with the South Conference champions to host the match.