BOULDER, Colo. – D1A Rugby Playoffs begin April 19, making this Saturday’s round of matches the last games of the regular season; and what a slate it is. The Mid-South always produces compelling rugby, the top four teams in California are all in action versus one another, and the West is still up for grabs.
Life vs. Davenport
The conference champion was crowned last week when Life beat Arkansas State. With the Mid-South title and a firm grasp on the No. 2-ranking, Life does not have a ton to play for when it travels to Davenport this Saturday. Still, Life’s first playoff match will not come until April 26, so expect head coach Dan Payne to start a healthy dose, if not all, of his first XV.
Davenport, even at 0-5, has earned enough respect with its performances to be on its way to hosting a first round playoff match.
Arkansas State vs. Lindenwood
Arkansas State and Lindenwood look to be on their way to finishing the regular season ranked in the top four, giving both teams a first round bye. With that said, this Saturday’s matchup between the two will be entertaining, as each would like to be playing its best rugby possible heading into the playoffs.
Saint Mary’s vs. Santa Clara
Saint Mary’s has been playing its top players and scoring points at an alarming rate all season, and I do not expect much to change just because the Gaels are coming off a monster win versus Cal. Santa Clara is 5-0 and has exceeded just about everyone’s expectations. The Broncos will have to play much better than they did last Saturday in a 32-31 win over UC Santa Barbara if it wants a shot at staying competitive with the No. 1-ranked team.
It is safe to say that Santa Clara will be hosting a first round playoff game, but the Broncos could boost their résumé by giving the Gaels an 80-minute scare.
Cal Poly vs. San Diego State
Cal Poly’s visit to San Diego will seemingly determine who finishes third and fourth in California. In a conference as strong as California, the third place team is likely to host a first round playoff match, while the loser of this game has to wait and see how the chips fall around the country to determine its playoff fate.
One would think the Aztecs, playing at home, have a good shot of downing the Mustangs, but Cal Poly played Saint Mary’s much tighter than San Diego State’s 99-point loss to the Gaels.
UC Davis vs. Sacramento State
With only one win between them, neither club has had a tone to cheer about this spring. The winless team, Sacramento State, is hosting the match, so there is most definitely a chance the Hornets can end the 2014 campaign on a high note.
Air Force vs. Colorado (Sunday)
The Buffs had a chance to seal the West championship Wednesday against Colorado State, but the Rams had plans of their own. The upset win by Colorado State leaves the door open for Air Force to challenge for the West title. The Zoomies would need a victory over Colorado, as well as a win over Wyoming next week.
As fit as Air Force’s side is, the boys from the Academy should be worse for the wear after playing Utah a day before its rematch versus the Buffs. Also, a makeup game against Wyoming still looms for Air Force.
Colorado State vs. Wyoming
Wyoming has managed to stay inside the top 12 despite back-to-back losses following its impressive 31-19 win over Air Force. A third consecutive loss could place the Cowboys outside of the playoff picture.
Colorado State will look for its second win in four days when it travels to Laramie, Wyo. The Rams, who looked to be on the verge of missing the playoffs at the beginning of the week, could be hosting a playoff match if they finish their regular season with a win over Wyoming.
Currently Wheeling Jesuit and Wisconsin are just out of reach of a playoff spot. Poor performances this weekend from Air Force, Colorado State, San Diego State or Wyoming could benefit Jesuit and the Badgers to the point of getting one or both of them into the playoffs.