Jacksonville, Brooklyn Ready for National Title Game
The 2018 season will end either in triumph or disappointment for the Jacksonville Axemen and Brooklyn Kings who are set to square off in the championship game in north Florida.
On paper, it shapes up as an even contest. Both teams are undefeated and go into the game boasting 8-0 records.
Brooklyn finished atop the NORTH Conference standings after accumulating maximum points from all their matches through the regular season and then capped that off by being crowned NORTH champions for the first time ever after winning the conference championship game.
Going into the playoffs, the Kings racked up an impressive +188 points differential with no other team in the conference coming anywhere close to that mark.
Likewise, in the SOUTH, the Axemen have been unstoppable so far this season.
They too racked up the maximum points on offer to top the standings compiling a staggering +234 points differential along the way.
Following up on that, Jacksonville completely dominated their opposition in their playoff games to qualify for the coveted USARL national championship.
Of the two teams, the Axemen are the more experienced having been here before.
Indeed, they have appeared in six national championship games to date, winning two of them.
The Axemen won their first title in 2010 when they were still part of the then American National Rugby League (AMNRL). They overwhelmed the New Haven Warriors on that occasion.
The USARL established its break away competition in 2011 and Jacksonville got to their third national championship game in 2012 when they edged the Boston 13s to claim the crown.
They have been runners-up a total of four times in 2009 (AMNRL), 2013, 2014 and 2016 (USARL).
Last season was a below par year by the Axemen’s own standards, but this year they have been all business under the tutelage of head coach Sean Rutgerson.
He has instilled a no-nonsense approach to the game among the players, who apart from one or two instances, have stuck to it in 2018.
Jacksonville has potent offensive players right across the field led by hooker and goalkicker Lachlan Bristow. He has been lighting up the opposition all season long, scoring tries and booting conversions from just about every conceivable angle.
Left winger David Washington is another player who has piled up the tries in 2018, followed closely by right wing Tyler McClain, while backrower Jed Pearce has been steamrolling opposing teams on his way to the try zone.
Captain Jon Purnell has been making the hard yards up the middle charging into the opposition and prop Kevin Wathen, halfback Montana Northcroft and center Kyle Grinold have all been major factors in Jacksonville’s success this season.
If the Axemen fire on all cylinders Saturday night, it could be a long night for Brooklyn.
On the flipside, however, the Kings too have their fair share of attack weapons, all of whom have been shredding the opposition from Week 1 of the competition.
Most notable among Brooklyn’s strike weapons is left center Brandon Anderson, who has put together an impressive highlight reel of tries.
He has been ably supported by the likes of fullback Seimou Smith, right center Jay Robinson, hooker Jerome Easthope and backrower Nick Briggs. They have all been on a tear this season, while captain Garet Shepherdson has been leading by example from up front in the engine room.
In a side note, the skipper has recovered from an injury he picked up earlier in the playoffs and will start Saturday.
The Kings were eliminated from the championship race in 2017 when they lost the NORTH Conference final to the New York Knights, something head coach Brent Richardson points to as a driving force this year.
The club was formed in 2014 and has been steadily building in the ensuing five years to a point where it now sees itself as a legitimate challenger for the USARL title.
So, all is set for what promises to be an exciting and competitive national championship game to be played at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville this Saturday, August 25.
The scheduled kickoff time is 7pm EDT, but If you can’t make it to the game, it will be live streamed on the Facebook page of iknowjax.com