Wednesday, October 28, 2015

RRC Fall 2015: Week One

Last weekend the 2015 Fall season of Rookie Rugby Cleveland took place; and even though most teams are raw in execution, there are a few teams that have become instant front-runners and others that can easily threaten the established names.

In the Flag League for players in fifth and sixth grade, Brunswick came out as the team to watch for the coming season. The Blue Devils won both matches on Sunday, starting off with a 19-10 win over upstarts Arrupe and closing the day with a dominant 33-15 win over Rocky River. On Sunday, Brunswick's strengths were continuity and transition speed on offense. During the win against Arrupe, Brunswick would get possession deep in enemy territory and use the seven-tackle count to inch closer to the try line. This pressure kept the defense on the back foot and allowed runners to snipe holes to get tries. During the match against Rocky River, Brunswick moved the ball quickly and often. Players may not have had much go-forward at times, but the ball transferred pretty well and that movement kept the defense from getting set and organized. Just like in the Arrupe match, the disorganized defense opened holes that Brunswick took advantage of to get points. In both matches, Brunswick took advantage of handling errors committed by the opposition to eat up yards on long runs and score tries. If Brunswick can keep up these kinds of performances, the team should have little trouble remaining at the top of the table.

Arrupe poses an interesting threat in the Flag League. Looking at the team play two things are obvious. First, it is obvious that the players are talented - fast and agile to be certain. Second, it is obvious they are new to the world of rugby. On offense, most of the tries Arrupe scored were by taking the speed to the outside. The issue is that the runner that ended up on the outside often started in the middle of the field. When these players learn to spread out and begin to move the ball more often than they move their feet they will be able to compete with and beat every team in the league. On defense, the Arrupe players were too quick to congratulate themselves on a successful tackle, rather than getting back on side and getting ready for the next play. There's no harm in congratulating a teammate who has made a tackle or be proud of stout defensive play, but teams can take advantage of lapses in focus to, at the very least, eat up yards. The players from Arrupe will eventually get the basics down and keep focus throughout an entire match, and when that happens the Flag League will be a much different picture.

In the girls' Tackle League the Jr. Jaguars, at first blush, would appear to have things well in hand. Over the course of two matches the Jr. Jaguars went undefeated and scored 45 points. The players employed a plodding type of offense to press past opposition defenses. The Jr. Jaguars are by far the biggest and strongest team in the league and that was definitely on display Sunday. For the most part, defenders couldn't get onto the runners from the Jr. Jaguars to initiate the tackle; and those that did got taken on a ride for a few yards until the ball was offloaded to an oncoming runner.

Highland adds an interesting element to this Tackle League for the ladies. The Buzzards are the compliment to the Jr. Jaguars. The lades in green are far and away the smallest team in the group, which made the opening match against the Jr. Jaguars a tough one from the outset. What the Buzzards lack in size, the players more than make up for in speed. Throughout the day, the ladies stretched defenses to their limits by breaking to the outside and picking up yards quickly. Highland did this three times late in the second half of the first match to pull within ten points of the Jr. Jaguars and executed to an even greater degree against Brunswick, when Highland secured a shutout victory. Highland lacks a defensive presence, though. There wasn't much of a presence at the breakdown and in the tackle for the Buzzards, and if the team hopes to have more success that will have to change.

Southside B and Highland are the top teams on the boys' side of the Tackle League. With the Magis team bowing out of the lower division, the rest of the season will like it be a two-way competition between SSB and Rocky River's third side. In the first division, Highland came out to a faster start to the season than the rest of the teams. The closest result for the Buzzards was a ten-point win over the first side from Rocky River. The other two results had Highland shut out Brunswick and give up a single try to the second side from Rocky River. Assuming the Buzzards can maintain this performance and keep some distance between themselves and the other teams, there is no reason why they shouldn't take the Tackle League for the boys.

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