The Denver Barbarians victory over Colorado-rivals Glendale Raptors last weekend was a great start to the new Elite Cup, but the competition is about to take it up a step this next weekend as two matches pitting more rivals against one another takes center stage.
San Francisco Golden Gate vs. Seattle-OPSB
No team has been more hot that SFGG this spring. The team has not only gone undefeated in DI NorCal so far this season, but have done it in dominating fashion. The team has only failed to score less than fifty points once in a league match—to Seattle-OPSB—and has a stifling defense. Having league success is nothing new for a team that has been to four of the last five Super League finals but after not making last year’s final they feel like they have something to prove.
Seattle-OPSB has also stormed through NorCal this season picking up lopsided wins against every opponent except one: SFGG. The two teams clashed earlier in the season shortly after the New Year with SFGG coming away with the win. Both teams had players missing or lacking fitness due to the holidays, but it was still a notable win for SFGG due to the fact that Seattle-OPSB dominated them in 2012 en route to the Super League final.
The most attractive element of this match-up is not only the current, former, and potential Eagles on each side, but the fact that both teams are so deep and so talent. This might be the highest domestic level of talent we see on a rugby pitch this year outside of the Elite Cup final. One of the more interesting battles on the pitch Saturday will be the match-up between former Eagles scrumhalf Mose Timoteo (SFGG) and former Fiji scumhalf Emosi Vucago (Seattle-OPSB). Another intriguing match-up includes Pate Tuilevuka (Seattle-OPSP) vs. Mile Pulu (SFGG).
What we are likely to see out on the pitch this Saturday in Seattle is free, high scoring game with two powerful offenses. SFGG has the likes of Volney Rouse and Henie McFarland that can turn the game on its head. Seattle-OPSB has their own strong offensive players in Isimeli Daveta, Mike Palefau, and Miles Craigwell. Unfortunately for Seattle-OPSB, they will be without the services of Palefau due to U.S. national team due and will likely be without Craigwell and flanker Matt Trouville as they are with Serevi Rugby in Hong Kong. Still, even without their star players, Seattle-OSPB should be ready to go against a strong SFGG side.
New York Athletic Club vs. Old Blue
Across the country in New York, the New York derby is set to take place between NYAC and Old Blue. To say that these two teams don’t like each other would be a bit of an understatement. The rivalry between these two teams has gone back decades with periods of NYAC and Old Blue being on top. Currently, Super League champions NYAC that have had the edge.
Coached by legend Bruce McLane, NYAC have been outstanding the last few years led by Eagles like Mike Petri, Toby L’Estrange, and Brian Doyle. Petri will be out this week with a broken thumb but L’Estrange and Doyle will be available for the clash. For NYAC, the Elite Cup represents their league season as they are not participating in DI. As such, the full weight of their organization has gone to performing well in the competition. To prep for the tournament the team took trips to both Life and BYU where they received stern tests but emerged victorious both times.
Old Blue have struggled in recent years but received a bit of boost last year when they had a decent Super League campaign. However, the drivers of that boost—Luke Hume, now with the U.S.A. 7’s team, and Ashley Moeke, back in New Zealand—have moved on, leaving the team to fill a big void. Old Blue have brought in some players to potentially replace Hume and Moeke but it will still be an uphill battle to break into the upper tier of teams.
As the situation currently stands NYAC should have no trouble with NYAC. L’Estrange is playing particularly well at the moment and overall NYAC are simply deeper that Old Blue. But this is a derby match and anything can happen. NYAC has a few injuries at the moment and if Old Blue are able to play a tight match, they could emerge with the surprise win, but at this point it seems unlikely.
No matter how either the SFGG vs. Seattle-OPSB or NYAC vs. Old Blue match turns out this weekend it should be some of the highest quality domestic rugby U.S. fans will see all year. And as the weather warms up, it’s time to head back on out to the field and enjoy.
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