The DI-A season started on February 18th with 25 teams competing for a championship. Now, after a hard fought regular season, the competition has been whittled down to eight teams: St. Mary’s, UCLA, Utah, BYU, Life, Arkansas State, Army, and Penn State. This weekend those eight teams go at it in the first round of the DI-A playoffs. Let’s take a look at the team and who might prove victorious.
Penn State at Life University
Penn State: East runners up (5-1, 25 points)
Life: South Champions (8-0, 38 points)
Life have been one of the better teams in college rugby for some time now and are the favorites to win this match. They certainly have plenty of experience backed by DI-A co-leading try scorer Cam Dolan and leading point scorer Joseph Cawley. Dolan has been capped by the Eagles 7’s team and causes fits for opposition teams. Also, Life have basically been unbeatable at home. Still, Penn State have had a terrific season and could put in a challenge. Not a lot of teams have had a chance to see the Nittany Lions in action and that could bode well for them against a Life team that could be looking to a potential second round match up with BYU. Prediction: Life.
UCLA at BYU
UCLA: Pacific runners up (3-1, 15)
BYU: Western Champions (7-0, 35)
BYU have been the absolute dominate team in DI-A this year. In total they scored 531 points and only gave up 94. Led by Mikey Su’a, the BYU forwards have been spectacular. Paul Lasike and Shaun Davies have been the leaders in the back. Head coach Dave Smythe has his team primed and ready to go. For BYU, this weekend begins the road back to Rio Tinto and another shot at a national championship. This is not to discount UCLA, but they certainly have a tough task of traveling to Provo. One thing going against UCLA is their lack of games. BYU have played over twice as many games and that experience could be another factor in the match. Still, UCLA do have the benefit of tapping into the large reservoir of talent in Southern California. They have athletes and could pose a challenge to BYU. In reality though, UCLA should feel happy if they keep the score close. Prediction: BYU.
Arkansas State at Army
Arkansas State: South runners up (6-2, 31 points)
Army: East Champions (6-0, 30 points)
Both Arkansas State and Army enter this match fairly evenly matched. Both have underrated athletes and both will give everything they have. Arkansas State are led by College All-American Shaun Potgieter, Paul Benade, Dale Bates, and Zac Mizell. They are an experienced team that could be the surprise of the tournament. At the same time, Army have the talent to also be a surprise team. Playing a complete team game, Army managed to go undefeated throughout the year facing tough competition. Additionally, hosting the match could give Army the edge. Arkansas State are too deep however and should advance. Prediction: Arkansas State.
Utah at St. Mary’s
Utah: Western runners-up (6-1, 31 points)
St. Mary’s (4-0, 20 points)
Like Arkansas State and Army, the match up between Utah and St. Mary’s is going to be close. Utah’s only blemish on the season was a close loss to BYU. Even beyond league play, the Utes went out and played Cal, SFGG, and the Denver Barbarians in order to get good experience. Led by Don Pati and Daniel Christensen, the Utes are deadly on attack and could pose problems for other teams. Another motivating factor for the Utes is the possibility of playing at home (Rio Tinto) in the final if they advance. Of course, standing in the way of those dreams is a very talented St. Mary’s team. They may have only played four league games, but they won those games convincingly scoring 234 points and only giving up 35. Still, St. Mary’s biggest accomplishment this season is knocking off a talented Cal team. That win shocked the rugby community and let other teams around the country know that St. Mary’s is for real. This match will certainly be close, but look for Utah to pull out the win. Prediction: Utah.
What do you think? Will BYU and Life have an easy time? Will the other two matches be as close as appears on the surface? Share your thoughts!
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