Pacific North Championship:
One of the most impactful tournaments of the season will be played out in Tacoma Washington, as the Pacific North hosts its championships. The Pacific North's regular season has been split in half, with Northern California playing its own slate of tournaments, while the Pacific Northwest has been enjoying its own fixtures. This weekend the two divisions will meet to settle who will be advancing through to nationals.
There will be a total of nine teams competing this weekend, with four teams in the women's bracket competing for three spots at nationals and five men's teams competing for the sole spot available to them at nationals. The stakes on both ends could not be higher, as one poor match from a women's team could dash their hopes at a national championship run; while for the men, if they are not at the top of their game throughout the tournament, they will almost certainly be facing exclusion from the national championships.
Matthew Lobe, the president of the Pacific North Rugby Football Union is expecting a weekend of high octane 7s in both draws. "It will be fast it will be aggressive, you'll see some big hits throughout the day... the teams' styles of play are very fast and very open. It will be who manages the heat and who is able to capitalize on the heat."
The heat will play a large part in the outcome of the championships as the mercury is set to rise to the mid to high nineties throughout the day. With at least four games to be played for each team you can expect fitness and hydration to play a major role in the final games of the day. Teams will start to fatigue mentally and physically and that will be where the separation is created.
Any sort of separation that the teams can get from one another will be cherished, as the competition is incredibly stiff in the Pacific North. Last year three of the four teams representing the Pacific North at nationals finished in the top three, with Atavus Seattle crowned national champions and Life West taking bronze for the women; while Washington Athletic (WAC) took home bronze for the men. Lobe is expecting the caliber produced by the Pacific North to be similar this year, "ORSU (Oregon Sports Union Rugby) and WAC have always been going at it for the women and Life West always has a strong team... I am interested to see how (Berkeley) All Blues shape out. I think that on any given day each team is capable of producing that championship winning team."
On the men's side, Olympic Club and WAC have been dominating their competitions, but Lobe still believes that there could be some tricks up the sleeves of some of the remaining clubs, like Life West. "They've got a fast team but their also well drilled. Both clubs traditionally are always a great team... it's just a matter of putting it together."
If the answers appear to be diplomatic in his answers, it's not an attempt at being evasive, it's a product of circumstance. This tournament is one of the toughest to pick, because the quality of the teams participating that it is hard to separate any of the teams from one another. It will be filled with drama from start to finish and promises to be a captivating tournament.
Hell or High Water 7s:
Red River for the women has been settled, with American Rugby Pro qualifying two teams for nationals; but for the men, one spot at nationals remains available. Dallas has already qualified by virtue of their performance at the Eastern Open, leaving teams like New Orleans and the Austin Huns to duke it out for a chance in the Big Apple. New Orleans was in scintillating form last time round when they won the tournament beating out both Dallas and the Huns. Despite their strong showing their spot isn't secure just yet, this weekend will be their final obstacle. If they are able to get over their hurdles this weekend, there is a strong possibility that they could steal the Red River 1 seed away from Dallas, and theoretically secure an easier path to a national championship. This will be easier said than done. Dallas is one of the most dominant teams, not only in the region but also in the country and will look to keep the one seed firmly in their grasp. New Orleans will also have to see out the Huns a feat which is no guarantee. It should be a exciting tournament with each teams desperation on full display.
Frontier qualification took a slight detour earlier in the month when the second qualifier was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions. With the loss of one qualifier teams will not be looking to leave anything up to chance, and will come out of the gates like bats out of hell. The Barbarians have been looking sharp all season, and after a disappointing finish to their first tournament, they looked ready to take atone for their mistakes until the weather cut their chances short. The Kansas City Blues by a similar token, will also be looking to capitalize on the quick starts that they have experienced and hoping this weekend they'll be able to convert their chances. The wildcard in this group is the Bulldog squad who, in the midst of their first season in the Frontier Region, won the only completed qualifier thus far. They are a squad packed to the rafters with young collegiate talent, as well as talent from various clubs country wide. While the team may be young the squad is experienced and in their last tournament before heading to nationals a big tournament this weekend will put the rest of the country on notice.
Midwest Championship: Cin City 7s
In the second of the two regional championships this weekend, the Midwest Rugby Union will be hosting their championships at the Cin City 7s tournament in Cincinnati. Teams have been competing throughout the summer in various tournaments in the region to receive the best seeding possible, but all the work that they've put in so far to get this point of the season can be undone by the slightest hiccup this weekend.
Leading into the championships it has been a three-horse race for the two spots in both the men and women's competitions. Metropolis and the Chicago Lions have been dominant across the board, with both teams meeting in the Championship game of each of the men's tournaments, and having met in two of the three championships on the women's side. Right behind them, and nipping at their heels, have been the Cincinnati Wolfhounds who have had to settle for bronze every time on the men's side and on two occasions bronze in the women's competition. Despite the track record for each of these teams, the prior results mean nothing going into this weekend. Al Lucas, the Midwest Men's Coordinator, noted at the beginning of the season that often the teams that win throughout regular season don't end up performing as well in the Championships. The Wolfhounds will be hoping the home crowd this weekend will help them get into a championship match for the first time this season.