Playoffs Preview: North & South

It’s make or break time as the USA Rugby League’s national clubs competition moves into the semifinals this weekend in both conferences.
Playoffs Preview: North & South

In the NORTH Conference, the #1 seeded Brooklyn Kings host #4 New York Knights and #2 Philadelphia Fight welcome the #3 seeded White Plains Wombats.

The Kings have been formidable all season long finishing the regular season unbeaten, while the Knights have been up and down and struggled to finish over the top of a game Boston 13s in last week’s opening round of the playoffs.

Brooklyn has had two weeks off by virtue of having a bye in the final round of the regular season and earning another bye in the first round of the postseason for finishing on top of the standings.

Head coach Brent Richardson says while it was exciting to go 6-0, it will mean very little if they don’t go on with the job now in the money rounds.

“It’s something we’ve never done before as a team, but ultimately if you don’t show up in the next game against good sides we won’t be winning, so we just need to worry about that.”

In the other semi, there isn’t much between the Fight and Wombats and consequently this one shapes up as an even money bet.

Both finished the regular season with the same record and same number of points with Philly getting the first-round bye because of a better points differential.

White Plains player/coach CJ Cortalano feels his team has a punter’s chance at the very least given the team today is better than the one they took to Philadelphia when they lost by eight points in the opening round.

“Each week we’re getting better at what we’re trying to accomplish, so as long as we continue to improve I don’t see any reason why we don’t have a good shot against them.”

His Philadelphia counterpart Rich Henson concedes coming off two losses isn’t good, but they’ve had an extra week to iron out their problems.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge and we’re excited to have a home playoff game.”

In the SOUTH Conference it’s straight into the semifinals with the #1 Jacksonville Axemen at home to #4 Southwest Florida Copperheads, while #2 Atlanta Rhinos will face #3 Tampa Mayhem in the Peachtree state.

The Axemen have been virtually unstoppable so far this season. They have trailed at halftime only once and boast the best points differential in the entire league.

However, head coach Sean Rutgerson says his players aren’t resting on their laurels and in light of the Copperheads’ improvement in the regular season finale last weekend, their playoff game will be tough.

“I’m confident but I know that they’re going to make us work for it. It’s not going to be a walk in the park and if we go in with a poor attitude they’ll put some points on us.”

In the other game in Atlanta, the result is probably a coin flip with both teams having gone 1-1 in their head-to-head matchups.

If either side has an advantage it’s likely the Rhinos as they’re playing at home where they blanked the Mayhem when the two met at Silverbacks Park a couple of weeks ago. Indeed, Atlanta’s only home loss this season was to Jacksonville in the second round.

So, all in all, this week’s round of playoff games looks set to serve up some entertaining rugby league.