BOULDER, Colo. – The inaugural Elite Cup competition has moved into the playoff stage after an intense five-week schedule of highly competitive matches between eight of the best club teams across the country.
Seven of the 12 pool matches were decided by less than 10 points, underlining the talent of each of the eight clubs: Boston, Denver Barbarians, Glendale Raptors, Life, New York Athletic Club, Old Blue, Seattle-Old Puget Sound Beach and San Francisco Golden Gate.
NYAC and Life met on the last day of pool play as the only undefeateds of the East April 20, with NYAC emerging victorious after a 25-22 win. NYAC suffered a few injuries in the week leading up to the match, and Head Coach Bruce McLane called it one of the greatest wins in team history.
With the win, NYAC earned home-field advantage for the East Semifinal against Life, to be played May 11. The Semifinal will be officiated by referee Gareth Morgan and assistant referees Brad Kleiner and Greg Gilliam. Morgan has been on the USA Rugby Referees National Panel and will bring his expertise to the Elite Cup.
San Francisco Golden Gate won the West outright with a 3-0 record in pool play, and will host Seattle-Old Puget Sound Beach in the Semifinal May 11. San Francisco previously defeated Seattle 36-27 in their opening match of the competition in Seattle back on March 23.
“The Elite Cup has allowed SFGG to compete with the best USA club sides on the west coast,” San Francisco Golden Gate Club Director Bruce Thomas said. “Playing in strong fixtures is paramount to player development. SFGG has set its standards high with the goal of winning the first Elite Cup competition and becoming the number-one club side in the USA. SFGG will look to grow both on the field and just as importantly off the field utilizing the success and exposure that a Cup victory can bring.”
Seattle finished pool play with a 1-2 record, but managed to advance to the Semifinal with 7 points to Denver and Glendale’s six each. Seattle scored 105 points and earned the try bonus point in the standings in each match. Sri Lankan-born Aruna Ranaweera will officiate the West Semifinal with assistant referees Phil Akroyd and George O’Neil. Ranaweera refereed matches in the IRB Nations Cup and is also on the USA Rugby Referees National Panel.
Boston, Life and Old Blue have each progressed to the Round of 16 of the DI Club Rugby National Championships, while Denver, Glendale and Seattle can advance to the Round of 16 in their Round of 32 matches May 18. Life and Old Blue face each other in the Round of 16, a rematch of the 25-21 Life victory in the Elite Cup April 6.
The Elite Cup Final will be played on May 25, one week before the DI Club Semifinals and Final. Life and Seattle could potentially play in both Finals should they win out in the respective competitions.