BOULDER, Colo. -- Forty-eight teams battled through a variety of conditions this weekend, including rain, heat, wind, and humidity, as the 2013 Emirates Airline USA Rugby Men’s Senior Club Division I, II, and III Playoffs were held in Texas and Virginia Beach. As of Sunday, 12 of those 48 will now advance to the National Semi-Finals and Finals at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.
In Division I play, the 2013 Elite Cup teams readily proved their standing as America’s best teams by either advancing to the semi-finals or eliminating each other. Life University’s senior men’s side took down two Elite Cup foes in Virginia Beach, dropping Old Blue of New York 41-17 in their National Round of 16 clash, followed by a valiant effort over Boston, 20-18, in the National Quarter-Finals. Boston reached the quarter-final showdown by taking down 2012 national semi-finalist Palmer 29-15. Life will also take on San Francisco Golden Gate this Saturday in the 2013 Elite Cup Championship, hosted by Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. The program’s collegiate side won last week’s Division 1-A Collegiate National Championship in a comeback victory over St. Mary’s of California.
Across the country in Irving, Texas (just outside of Dallas), Seattle OPSB rebounded from its Elite Cup semi-final loss last weekend to dispatch the Glendale Raptors, a fellow Elite Cup side, 39-12 in the National Quarter-Finals. The teams reached the quarter-finals by defeating the Austin Blacks and Belmont Shore, respectively, in the National Round of 16 on Saturday. Another Elite Cup side in action, the Denver Barbarians, also reached the Division I National Semi-Finals with hard-earned victories over the Santa Monica Dolphins and Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC). To reach their quarter-final showdown with Denver, OMBAC defeated the Dallas Harlequins 31-27 in the Round of 16.
Joining the three remaining Elite Cup sides in Glendale next weekend will be New Orleans, who continued to prove many pundits wrong with a 15-10 quarter-final victory over 2012 national semi-finalist Metropolis (Minneapolis). The match was the toughest draw for both teams on the weekend after their Saturday Round of 16 victories over the Potomac Athletic Club (New Orleans, 59-8) and the Middlesex Barbarians (Metropolis, 45-21). New Orleans’ rise continues to impress the rugby community, as just two years ago it was a Division II team (albeit, the 2011 Division II National Champions). The club’s reserve program was the 2012 Division III National Champion.
In Division I history, Life has made five national semi-finals, and were the champions of the 2008 tournament. The club also made three Rugby Super League championship matches, winning the RSL title in 2000. The 2013 semi-finals will be the Denver Barbarians’ eighth Division I semi-final appearance, but the first since 1990, when the club won its only (thus far) Division I national championship. The Barbarians also made one RSL championship appearance, taking the title in 1999. Seattle OPSB has never made a Division I semi-final, but was the runner-up in the final edition of the RSL . Historically, the program has had more success in the sevens realm.
The Division II National Semi-Finals are once again very strong, with four unsurprising teams set to descend on Infinity Park. 2012 semi-finalists Santa Rosa and Wisconsin both return after the teams were eliminated in 2012 by eventual champion Rocky Gorge (Maryland). Wilmington, the 2013 Mid-Atlantic champions, ensured that Rocky Gorge would not return by defeating them twice in recent weeks, including a 24-12 win in the National Quarter-Finals in Virginia Beach. Snake River, a strong side out of Boise, Idaho, rounds out this year’s group of semi-finalists after narrowly being denied in last year’s quarter-finals by the San Diego Old Aztecs, who played in Division I this year.
Santa Rosa will be making its fifth national semi-final appearance; the club was 1993 and 1994 Division II National Champions. Wisconsin is also making its fifth national semi-final appearance, having won the National Championship in 1998. Snake River will be making its fourth national semi-final appearance, and was the 1996 Division II National Champion. Wilmington is alone as a national semi-final debutant.
In Division III, the national championship picture was, and continues to be, anyone’s game. The upstart Oceanside Chiefs of Southern California advanced from the Texas half of the bracket, joined by the reserve program of 2012 Division I national champion, Belmont Shore. Meanwhile, in Virginia, the Saratoga Stampede (N.Y.) continued their impressive run by advancing alongside the reserve program of 2013 Elite Cup participant Old Blue of New York.
The 2013 National Semi-Finals and National Championship matches will be held June 1-2 at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. Tickets for stadium entry are $10 per day or $18 for both days. The Division I semi-finals and all National Championship matches will be held in the stadium; the Division II & III semi-finals and all consolation (third place) matches will be held at Infinity Park South, just outside the stadium. Admission to Infinity Park South is free, and amphitheater-style seating is available.