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Life's bigger units highlight All-Playoff Team - Forwards

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Life's bigger units highlight All-Playoff Team - Forwards

BOULDER, Colo. – Saint Mary’s 21-6 victory over life in the National Championship match capped a very exciting D1A Playoffs. Sure, there were a few blowouts, but plenty of teams earned valuable experience needed to close the gap that sits between college’s elite and those knocking on the door.

With the best of the best butting heads during the D1A Playoffs, some truly impressive student athletes played terrific rugby during the postseason.

Here is a list making up the 2014 D1A All-Playoff Team for the forward positions:

Props

Paris Hollis, Life: Hollis is an imposing force on the pitch. He makes his presence felt in each and every match. The former powerlifter will be especially important to the Running Eagles’ success up front next season as Life is due to lose fellow front rowers Zach Walker and OJ Auimatagi to graduation.

Angus MacLellan: Davenport: The All-American has been receiving high grades all season from opposing coaches in the Mid-South. MacLellan’s combination of fitness and talent at prop should have him undoubtedly on the national team’s radar.

Ryan Pratt, Saint Mary’s: If it was a secret before the 2014 D1A Playoffs, then the secret should be out by now – Saint Mary’s has incredibly talented forwards to go with its dynamic backline. The Gael’s front three was especially strong, and Pratt not only was a force with his size, but the senior scored two tries in the Quarterfinals against Santa Clara and one in the Semifinals against Lindenwood.

Dino Waldren, Saint Mary’s: Waldren loves mixing it up at the breakdown, but the big man seems to equally enjoy taking the ball going forward. Saint Mary’s dangerous backline would not have nearly the space to work with if players like Waldren did not grind out the tough meters in midfield. The junior also had a try apiece in the Gaels’ Quarterfinal and Semifinal wins.

Hookers

OJ Auimatagi, Life: The forwards captain for the country’s No. 2-ranked team missed some time due to injury early in 2014. Luckily for Life, Auimatagi returned in time to be in terrific form for the D1A Playoffs. Auimatagi’s leadership and on-field play was a huge lift to Life’s starting XV, and the California native even managed to find the try zone against Colorado in the Quarterfinal.

Gabe Sochanek, Davenport: Not shy about handling the dirty work up front, Sochanek is just as valuable as an attacking ball carrier. The AIG All-American contributed to Davenport’s back-and-forth win over Army with a long try-scoring break down the middle of the field that centers dream about making.

Locks

Jake Anderson, Life: There may not have been a forward in D1A that had a better season than Anderson. The large unit does it all: tackles, runs and controls the lineout. Anderson continued his blistering season into the Playoffs and scored a try in the Running Eagles’ win in the Quarterfinal over Colorado.

Connor Cook, Arkansas State: Not too often will you see a lock handling kicking duties, especially on a team with as much experience as the Red Wolves, but that is the unique kind of player Cook is. After totaling 13 points against Cal Poly in the Quarterfinal, Cook made a massively-important play in the Semifinal. Struggling to make gains against Life’s swarming defense, Cook managed to break free for a long run down the sideline, putting the Running Eagles on the back foot, which would lead to a try by Tom Haussrer, and put the Red Wolves within grasps of an upset.

Jeff Ferebee, Army: It takes a special type of player to captain an Army side, and that is exactly what Ferebee is. Against Davenport in the first round of the Playoffs, Ferebee scored two tries, each one giving West Point a lead. Unfortunately for Army, Ferebee’s second try looked like a game-winner before the Panthers were able to strike once more in the final minute.

Guido Murnig, Colorado: Playing with a separated shoulder, Murnig helped the Buffs’ efforts with a first-half try against San Diego State in the first round of the Playoffs. When a lot of players might deem themselves incapable of playing, Murning braced his shoulder and brought the physicality required for Colorado to hang with Life for 40 minutes.

Flankers

Steyn Benade, Arkansas State: In many ways Benade was a breakout player for the Red Wolves. His steady play in a physically-tough conference made him a favorite amongst coaches. Benade’s consistency lasted throughout Arkansas State’s run to the Semifinal, which probably played a part in being named the team’s MVP.

Collum Magee, Army: After missing out on its East Conference matches in the fall due to a program-wide suspension, West Point made up for lost time with a streak of wins in 2014. Magee proved that any potential cobwebs had been swiped clean, as he poured in two tries against Davenport in the Playoffs.

Hiko Malu, Life: Playing amongst a rather experienced group of forwards, Malu is the youngster of the squad. But do not let his inexperience fool you for a lack of talent. The long and strong Malu plays with a tenacity that coaches love, and his extreme athleticism was on display during a long first-half dash against Colorado that opened up a Life offense which struggled to get in a flow prior to Malu’s break.

Luke Sauser, Saint Mary’s: Everyone who watched the D1A Final between Saint Mary’s and Life saw an incredibly physical match. Sauser, who scored a try in the Gaels’ Quarterfinal win over Santa Clara, played a major role in the physicality of the National Championship at Stanford.

Eight Man

Glen Maricelli, Life: Maricelli’s versatility allowed him to be valuable at both number eight and at hooker while OJ Auimatagi was hurt. The AIG All-American can be found all over the field, and he is equally competent making tackles as he is ball-in-hand. With Auimatagi graduating, it will be interesting to see if Head Coach Dan Payne keeps him at number eight next season or moves his appreciated forward to hooker.

Shaun Potgieter, Arkansas State: Potgieter finished a spectacular career at Arkansas State with a couple of solid performances in the Playoffs, including a try against Cal Poly. In terms of leadership and defense, Potgieter’s presence was always felt amongst teammates and opposition. The Red Wolves will surely miss the AIG All-American next season.

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  • Unbiased Viewer

    Time and time again selectors overlook Mike O' Neill from Saint Mary's College. The guys has an incredible work rate and if you watch film hasn't missed a tackle probably all season. I have never seen a hooker move around the pitch and still be consistent in the breakdown area as well as Mike. He just has a will to be great and it's a shame that he continues to be over looked. Maybe he should start scoring 40+ meter tries instead of doing all the dirty work around the pitch that goes unnoticed. I am rather experienced when it comes to rugby, but have no bias towards any college team in the country. However I am a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due and Mike O' Neill without a doubt deserves more credit than he is given. I just wanted to open peoples eyes on the subject matter of that a name can only take you so far and that results and hardwork need to be more heavily weighted when it comes to accolades we dole out.

  • SMC Alum

    In reply to: Unbiased Viewer

    Agreed! And Thank you for your comments!!
    Heard a rumor he may be coming back for his fifth year of eligibility
    Which would be great for Saint Mary's and college Rugby

  • Fact

    In reply to: Unbiased Viewer

    He couldn't tackle me

  • SMC Rugby

    In reply to: Fact

    Hopefully he'll get the chance next year!!

  • Legit

    I'm all for recognizing talent and promoting the best players and teams. As the only source for rugby information, the rugby bloggers and USA Rugby have tried to do it for many years. Unfortunately, none of them have gotten it right yet. The best people to determine the rankings and to pick out the top players are the coaches. We need to have all D1-A coaches polled weekly to determine the rankings and we need an annual poll of those same coaches to name the All D1-A teams. The same goes for D1-AA. Let the people with the most invested in the game point out who is worthy of recognition. Just don't let them vote for their own team in the rankings or players for recognition. That should keep out the bias. This process can be easily handled using a secure webpage that each coach will access with private log in data.

    I for one am sick of reading what a couple of writers at Rugby Magazine (or any blog) think. Who cares what they think? Let's see what the coaches think, that's what really matters! Come on USA Rugby, create the gold standard of polls!

  • MuckrakerRugby

    In reply to: Legit

    Coaches Polls cost money that doesn't exist. Don't disparage Alex Solomon - an intern - for what he writes about when you do not know how he does his research. Solomon is known for taking the time to talk to coaches and compiling their thoughts. Aside from a true coaches poll, this is probably as close as you are going to get.

  • Legit

    In reply to: MuckrakerRugby

    I'm not disparaging anyone. I'm saying that a poll of the coaches would be a lot better. I'm sure that the cost would be minimal to create a page that will accomplish this (with log in). But, just so you know, I have volunteered my time to USA Rugby to manually create a weekly coach's poll in the past using e-mail and compiling the votes. It would be a lot better to automate it so it's easier for the coaches to vote and reports could be quickly generated to provide data about the polling results.

    The coaches are the best people to determine rankings and all-star athletes. Too many teams get high ranking positions based on their history of success instead of their current success. Too many guys have been recognized as all-stars simply because they score tries. The coaches know the game better than bloggers. They notice players who are doing all of the things that make a player outstanding. They recognize the quality of the teams that they face and can judge them better than any blogger can.

    So, my point is, let's make things better than what they are. It's USA Rugby's job to drive improvement and advance the game.

  • In reply to: Legit

    The D1A Top 20 poll takes into account the rankings from each of the conference's commissioners. If every coach voted there would be seven votes out of the California Conference, while only four votes coming from the Mid-South. This imbalanced system may actually undervalue the rankings.

    As far as the article above which you have commented on, any list distinguishing individual achievement will come with disagreement and varying opinions. I'm just glad, between this article and the corresponding list of backline players, to recognize 30 players who have worked hard, excelled on the pitch, and represented college rugby well.

  • Legit

    In reply to: Alex Solomon

    Okay, so have the coaches vote regionally then have the commissioners balance out the coach's votes. The issue you describe are also applicable in college football. There could be conference bias in the voting but it still works out pretty well. Of course, there still is controversy over rankings and all american selections but the original source of all the information is the best possible source, the coaches.

    I agree that recognizing 30 guys is better than just recognizing 15 and that all of the 30 players are deserving of recognition. Again, the credibility of having the nominations and votes come from coaches (and conference commissioners) will only increase the prestige of being recognized.

  • Sperry

    Dad,

    Please stop throwing shoes at my crate.

    Love,
    Sperry