LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Several Canterbury D1A Rugby Top 20 teams are set for intriguing nonconference matchups this weekend, including three of the top-six ranked squads.
Saint Mary’s hopes to continue its torrid pace when it heads to the United State Air Force Academy to play No. 15 Air Force. The newly minted No. 1-ranked California Golden Bears remain in Northern California to play Santa Clara, and Lindenwood dives head first into its 2017 season by hosting Central Washington.
#15 Air Force vs. #3 Saint Mary’s
The Gaels don’t mind traveling out of state for competitive matches, but this weekend’s visit to Air Force might be in good faith after Saint Mary’s beat Air Force 77-17 in the 2016 Quarterfinals. The trip to the Academy wouldn’t have so much to do with the 60-point margin of victory, but the fact that the Zoomies – due to severe weather conditions in Colorado – moved their home game to California to play Cal Poly in the opening round of the playoffs, only to have to deal with the Gaels 24 hours after beating the Mustangs.
More important than its distant history is Air Force’s November outing against Army. The Black Knights put a major dent in the Zoomies otherwise impressive fall season by hamming them, 62-19, at West Point. The West Conference Champions have been working hard to prove that the pounding it took against its military rival was just a bad day at the office.
Saint Mary’s might not be the best cure for Air Force. The Gaels have ripped off four impressive victories that have the two-time National Champions looking as capable as ever to make a run at another title. Their latest win, which saw Saint Mary’s score 106 points, came at Santa Clara’s expense. California Conference Player of the Month Alec Barton dotted down twice in the win against the Broncos.
Santa Clara vs. #1 Cal
Since going undefeated at the Dennis Storer Classic, Cal has earned convincing wins over Arizona, UC Santa Cruz and Utah to propel itself to No. 1 in the D1A Rugby Top 20 ahead of Life University. The Golden Bears don’t have a PAC Rugby Conference opponent on their radar this week, but they’re doing what they do best – staying busy. A Wednesday night fixture that quickly turned into an 87-0 rout of California State University Maritime Academy began the week. Now Cal turns its attention to Santa Clara.
The Broncos are coming off a one-sided defeat against Saint Mary’s. A cancelation of a game lined up against Stanford and a trip to the desert that produced a loss to Arizona and a tie against Grand Canyon University has Santa Clara starving for a win. The Bears won’ be handing anything over to the opposition, however. Cal used a lineup entirely of underclassmen reserves against Cal State Maritime and will have its full plethora of weapons at it disposal against the Broncos should the team choose to use them.
Central Washington vs. #6 Lindenwood
It’s common to see college teams square off in a friendly against a local club side to open a season. Not Lindenwood. The sixth-ranked Lions are hosting powerhouse Central Washington Saturday, Feb. 4 for what will be their first 15s match of the 2017 season.
After spending the end of summer and beginning of fall focusing on sevens, which included a first-place finish at the American leg of the Red Bull Uni 7s and a third-place finish at the Global Red Bull event, Lindenwood’s top side won three 15-a-side matches during the month of November. Most impressive was a 52-37 win over Navy at the United State Navel Academy.
The Wildcats present Lindenwood its stiffest test ahead of its March 4 Mid-South Conference opener against No. 10 Arkansas State. Central Washington, a varsity program in Ellensburg Wa., is coming off a 2016 season that ended in a one-point loss to Cal in the Semifinals of the Varsity Cup. This year the Wildcats only 15s victory is a 35-21 win over the Vancouver Rowing Club. They could add another ‘W’ to their record tonight against Division 1AA Fall Championship Quarterfinalist Lindenwood-Belleville.
There is a load of talent throughout the Lions lineup, but Nick Feakes is one to keep an eye on after the fly half had a very productive summer playing sevens with the Chicago Lions. Other Likely standouts for Lindenwood should be Deion Mikesell and Lorenzo Thomas, who both spent time with the Eagles last year during the Americas Rugby Championship, as well as 2016 Mid-South Forward of the Year Wes Parker.