Monday, December 9, 2019

EPCR: Champions, Challenge Cup WRaps

European Professional Club Rugby - Champions Cup
On the Weekend, By the Numbers

Overall, six road wins as the clubs are establishing patterns and formulating strategies to get them to the April knockouts.

Home Happy: Lyon, Munster, Toulouse, Ulster
Road Warriors: Clermont, Exeter, Glasgow, Gloucester, Leinster, Racing

12           the second stanza count for Clermont replacement 9, Grieg Laidlaw, on 3-and-2 in relief Morgan Parra and a double for Spanish flyer, Sam Ezeala, in support the 34 - 17 victory on the trot at the Rec over Bath; home team 10, Rhys Priestland, got 10 on a basic, 1-1-1 triple;

28           for the 5-pointer for Lyon and naught for Benetton at the Matmut for home side’s first win while Treviso are yet looking; Lyon lead the Top 14, though they’re third in their 4-team group just here and now;

10           for Leinster 10 Jonathan Sexton’s relief, Ross Byrne, on a basic triple, and travelers abso leveled their hosts, Northampton, at Franklin’s Gardens to claim the thus far undisputed ordering seat at poolside, 43 - 16; 4 first forty lead changes and 19-16 the Leinster advantage at the half before the Irishmen floored it;

12           for traveler 10, Adam Hastings, on 3-and-2 struck from his shoe and Glasgow got the win over La Rochelle at Deflandre, 27 - 24, despite 14 from his oppo number, Jules Plisson, on 1-and-4 from the floor;

10           for Ulster 9, Jack Cooney, on 2-and-2, the last a penalty struck true in the 79th for the 25 - 24 win over Harlequins at Ravenhill; a brace of 2 for Samoan 2, Elia Elia, in the loss;

7              the margin at the end of the day and Munster topped an Owen Farrell-less Saracens side, 10- 3;

14           against 15 all day long after a 37-second sendoff of Ospreys 15 and booter, Dan Evans, and Racing 92 got the 5-point road win at Liberty, 40 - 19; abso casino night with five cards: 1 red and 4 yellows; 3 to Ospreys and 2 to 92;

2              trys for Cherry-and-Whites 15, Tom Marshall, and Gloucester returned from 7-10 halftime deficit to collect the bonus-point versus Connacht at Kingsholm, 26 - 17;

2             also for Toulouse 10, Romi Ntamack, and 13 for 15, Tommie Ramos, on 2-and-3 off the tee as home side got the 23 - 9 win past Clermont at the Ernest Wallon;

22           points in the first 25 minutes sufficient for Exeter Chiefs to manage the road victory at Salford City, 22 - 20, over an AJ MacGinty-less Sale Sharks school; 

Upcomes Round 4:

                Friday, 12.13

                                Harlequins (5) v (12) Ulster at Twickenham: home team need to close out their last three with all points possible if they’d like to perform in the knockouts;
                                Racing 92 (12) v (0) Ospreys at La Défense: should be five for the hosts;
                Saturday, 12.14

                                Benetton (2) v (6) Lyon at Stadio Communal di Monigo: home side looking to get their initial win of the tournament here and now;

                                Leinster (14) v (9)  Northampton Saints at the RDS: would be five for reigning runnersup and effectively, the pool;
                                Glasgow Warriors (8) v (1) La Rochelle at Scotstoun: could be five for hosts;

                                Saracens (6) v (11) Munster in Barnet Copthall at Allianz Park: gotta win Sarries;

                                Connacht (4) v (7) Gloucester at Galway Sportsground: home XV have an outside shot at the knockouts as well do their guests today;

                                Montpellier (5) v (13) Toulouse in the Altrad at GGL Stadium: home team must win, period, and ideally keep their guests from stealing any kitchenware;
                Sunday, 12.15:
                                Clermont (11) v (2) Bath at the Michelin: homeboys in good shape now with their five-pointer last week v today’s guests; looking grim for the travelers;

                                Exeter Chiefs (14) v (6) Sale Sharks at Sandy Park: visitors not out of it yet, but they will be should they fail today’s exam;

European Professional Club Rugby - Challenge Cup
On the Weekend, By the Numbers
20+ table points will more than likely make extra time come April, possibly high-teens

Bristol looking powerful and could close on an after-time berth this upcomer.

Home Happy: Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leicester, Toulon, Worcester, Zebre
Road Warriors: Bordeaux-Bègles, Castres, Scarlets,

5              yellow tickets issued, 3-2 away v home, in the disruptive events-with-rugby ball on the Black Sea, and Castres escaped with the 4-point victory after downing Enisei at Kuban Stadium, 28 - 12; travelers earned all 3 cards in the ten minutes prior to the hour mark making a playing complement of 15 v 12, during that interval homeys were only able to ground once;
11           try Bordeaux announced themselves in a big way with the road win, 73 - 3, over Agen at Stade Armandie; 17 for travelers 21 years old 10, Matti Jalibert, on half dozen try-conversions and a grounding, and a hat trick for flyer, Geoff Cros, in the rout;

2              touch downs for Edinburgh 11, Duhan Van der Merwe, in the 31 - 20 joy over Wasps at Murrayfield;

14           for Scarlets 15, Leigh Halfpenny, on 1-and-4 from the floor, the deuce the completion of a 28th-minute grounding by loosehead, Rob Evans, and travelers earned 19 - 11 victory over Bayonne;

22           for Cardiff Blues 10, Jarrod Evans on 6 conversions and a brace of trys against only 22 total for Pau and home side crushed their guests, 54 - 22, at the Arms Park; all 8 groundings by the three-quartersline and a hat trick by flyer, Josh Adams;

13           for Bristol 10, Ian Madigan, on 2-and-3 and the Bears got the 5-pointer over Stade Français at Ashton Gate, 37 - 11;

9              try Leicester, 7-of-9 converted, made Tigers numbers against a lone completed for guests and the home XV got the 59 - 7 rout over Calvisano at Welford Road; Jonnie May got a brace;

4              lead changes and two instances of drawn scores as well as an 18th-minute red for travelers 8, and Worcester managed a significant, 34 - 28, 5-point joy over Dragons at Sixways; 14 for home 10, Jamie Shillcock, on 4-and-2;

1              first forty yellow for visitors and a brace of second stanza reds, split between the sides before Toulon sorted London Irish at the Mayol, 37 - 17; brace for home 9, Baptiste Serin and also 2 dots for Pumas flyer Ramiro Moyano in the winning effort;

21           the home team advantage at the half, 24-3, nearly squandered in a one-sided second stanza before Zebre was able to claim 27 - 24, 5-point, victory over Brive;

Upcomes Round 4:
                Friday, 12.13:

                                Castres Olympique (8) v (0) Enisei STM at Stade Pierre Fabre: home team will want five here and now;

                                Brive (5) v (6) Zebre at Amédée-Domenech: neither can be counted out yet, though the loser will be looking for work come the April knockouts;
                                Dragons (11) v (10) Worcester Warriors  at Rodney Parade: this result may determine the group;
                                Section Paloise (5) v (11) Cardiff Blues at Stade du Hameau: critical test for travelers;
                Saturday, 12.14

                                Wasps (5) v (12) Edinburgh at the Ricoh Arena: this too, will be a telling result;
                                Bordeaux-Bègles (12) v (0) Agen at Chaban-Delmas: homeys seek the bonus-point;
                                London Irish (6) v (14) Toulon at Madejski Stadium: could very well be when this year’s home effort goes irretrievable away, though travelers finicky on the trot;

                                Cammi Calvisano (0) v (14) Leicester Tigers at Pata Stadium: Cats victory will go a long way in securing a quarterfinal berth;
                                Scarlets (9) v (2) Bayonne at Parc y Scarlets: gotta win big Redmen;
                                Stade Français (4) v (15) Bristol Bears at Stade Jean Bouin: visitors can all but punch their ticket to the knockouts with a bonus-point right here, right now;

Saturday, December 7, 2019

International High School All Star Rugby on this Tuesday

Rising from the Southern Pacific Ocean as Neptune’s spear, Trident All Stars have come ashore the North American continent in formidable fashion.

Trident High School Rugby All Stars, from Whakatane New Zealand, look to finish the third leg of their 2019  North American Tour with perfection when they test a Colorado HS Select Side next Tuesday night, 5pm, on the StoveTop at Infinity Park, Glendale. The tourists topped an elite Canadian squad in Vancouver to kick off the three-match schedule and blanked Liberty Rugby Club, 24-0, in MLR dual-champion Seattle SeaWolves’ home ground at Starfire Sports Arena on Tuesday last.

The 2019 Northern Hemisphere visit is Trident’s eighth since 1987. Group leader, Chris Burn, states the purpose of the trip as, “to make a difference in the lives of these young men. Broaden their horizons and instill in them (the credo) that if (you) want something you need to work for it.” Thus the players engaged in a wide range of activities from bobby calf collecting* to hay bale wrapping to earn this significant transition. “Most of the boys have not (previously) been on a plane, never touched snow. Our school is in a very rural area with a high indigenous population,” Burn adds.

Whakatane is located on North Island of New Zealand along the coast of the Bay of Plenty. Major industries in the area include forestry, farming and fishing, though tourism is on the rise.

The high level of rugby at Trident has supplied New Zealand’s national side with All Blacks from the region: mid-fielder Arthur Stone (1980s - AB# 832) and more recently, front row Kane Hames (AB# 1152) flourished under the Trident banner. Burns reports, “The Super Team from our area is the Chiefs but the boys tend to follow individuals.”**

If you’re wondering what All Blacks look like in their formative stages, come have a looksee on the Tuesday, 12.10 at Glendale, 5pm.

* Bobby Calves are newborns who’ve no Mom (I know!) and/or bulls under 30 days old; suffice to say, they are surplus to the dairy industry.

** I’m an Ardie Savea man myself - ed.

Friday, December 6, 2019

USA Rugby v NSCRO: National Financial Foibles?

If you'd like to get the feel for what happens when a tornado hits a carnival when the clowns are just emerging from their vehicle, read on:

- FYI: there are half dozen NSCRO colleges in our regional grouping (union) and three of them are in the Denver area: Colorado School of Mines, Regis University and University of Denver - 

NSCRO Response to USA Rugby Financial Difficulties

December 4, 2019
To the Members of NSCRO:
The National Small College Rugby Organization would like to issue a response to the recent letter written by USA Rugby to our members regarding their 2019 financial difficulties and projected challenges in 2020.
USA Rugby identified massive overspending on High Performance – predominantly for the Men’s 15’s National team – as well as continued spending on legal fees related to two high-profile lawsuits in which USA Rugby is the defendant. This comes after years of previous financial mismanagement and an emergency multi-million dollar loan from World Rugby. Refer to the USAR letter at
These unbudgeted costs and overspending along with repayment of money previously borrowed from World Rugby have led to significant “cash flow” challenges for USA Rugby, which USA Rugby states they working to correct by implementing “staffing changes and cost reductions of projected activities and projects scheduled this year”.
Unfortunately, USA Rugby has become delinquent on paying significant monies collected for and owed to numerous “3rd party partners” including NSCRO. For 2019-20, NSCRO implemented an annual $15 per player membership fee (in lieu of a club fee). This was collected by USA Rugby in addition to their own membership fees as part of their Enrollment System. To date, NSCRO has only received partial payment from USA Rugby for money which should have come directly to our organization after each player registration. NSCRO was recently informed by a USA Rugby executive that these funds have been used to help alleviate their “cash flow” challenges. We, as well as the entire US rugby community, are deeply disappointed by their actions. The Rugby Congress is presently addressing this serious breach of trust with the USAR Board of Directors.
While USA Rugby’s delinquency has led to some financial hardship for our organization, we wanted to express to our membership that NSCRO remains fully committed to fulfilling our mission of fostering both on and off-field growth and development of small college rugby, its clubs, players and coaches. We plan to continue to offer top-level competitions, small college national championships, national all-star opportunities, as well as recognize club and player accomplishments.
In order to alleviate this financial hardship, and to ensure continued operation and growth of our organization in the future, the NSCRO Board of Directors is aggressively taking steps to:
1) Accelerate payment to NSCRO of all past due fees that USAR collected on behalf of NSCRO.
2) Take greater control of future NSCRO registration cash flows to prevent future misuse of funds.
3) Lessen our operational dependency on USAR's registration platform.
Despite these unexpected challenges, NSCRO will stand even taller as leaders who serve the best interests of our members. We will be open to engaging potential partners that share our desire for sustained growth and a better future for collegiate rugby. We hope you will stand with us as we move forward in the coming months to building a stronger organization.
Please direct all questions by email to
With you,
Steve Cohen - NSCRO President and CEO

Monday, December 2, 2019

Europe's Pro League WRaps: Gallagher, Guinness and Top 14

The three European Leagues (Guinness Pro14 boasts a brace of South African sides as well) resume play after a fortnight off, though those two weeks afforded no rest as that interval encompassed the initial rounds of the Champions and Challenge Cups 

Gallagher Premiership Round 5 Wrap - By the Numbers

12 teams, all in England; 22-match, home-away schedule; semifinals June 12, Grand Final, June 20

Home Happy: Exeter, Harlequins, Northampton, Worcester
Road Warriors: Saracens
Sis-kiss: Bristol - Irish

Can Saracens still earn a playoff berth after the GP death sentence? Short answer: YES;  

Saints yet in the ordering spot at table, and Saracens are currently deep-sixed in the Premiership sub-basement and locked in a cabinet after choosing to drop their appeal of a near $7 million fine (for salary cap improprieties) and 35-table point hit that has put in serious doubt the club’s ability to defend the English title that they’ve won four of the last five years - last year Sarries claimed Europe (EPCR - Champions Cup) as well. For Saracens to make champion in their league this season, they must win their remaining fixtures, ideally with bonus points in each victory. If Saracens are successful in that herculean endeavor, it will earn the club a total of 67 table points, sufficient, one thinks, to gain the semifinal playoffs; the last five years’ points haul for fourth place finishers: 2019 - 56 (Saints); 2018 - 63 (Falcons); 2017 - 66 (Tigers); 2016 - 65 (Tigers); 2015 - 68 (Saracens); so, Sarries can get there theoretically, though reaching that goal in real time could be a stretch.

However, in their remaining 17 contests, if Sarries fail to earn five points from a win as they did in Round 4, subtract one point from the club’s potential total at season’s end - i.e. pre-Sarries Round 5 match, there were 18 games remaining on the schedule, or 90 (18 X 5) possible table points on offer. If Sarries were able to win them all with bonus points, their points total at year’s end would be 68 (or 90 - 22), sufficient to obtain a final playoff berth. But they only got 4 points from the Bath win, so take a point from the potential total and the most those Corsairs can possibly get now is 67, yet enough to see extra time, one might calculate.

On the Weekend, By the Numbers:

                20           for Saracens 10, Owen Farrell, on 1-and-6 true the sticks and Sarries have set out from base camp far below that of their climbing competition in an effort to salvage their season with the 25 - 15 victory over Bath on the trot at the Rec; flyer Sean Maitland touched down in the 32nd minute for the traveler’s total;

                3              from 4 trys scored by frontrowmen in Exeter joy, 28 - 3, over Wasps at Sandy Park; 11 for Chiefs 10, Garo Steenson, on 4-and-1;

                5              try Northampton, all converted by 10, England and Saints legacy 21 years old James Grayson - his dad’s Paul “Larry” Grayson, who notched 11 on 4-and-1 in the home side’s 36 - 13 pasting of Leicester at Franklin’s Gardens; Tigers were ahead 10-7 after 22 minutes, but 17 unanswered by the midpoint, gave Northampton a lead they’d not lose;

                51           total minutes of 14 on 15 too much for weary Sale and Worcester returned in the second stanza from 6-10 deficit to record 20 - 10 victory at Sixways; Warriors counted all their points while Sharks were down a man;

                27           for everyone in the shop at ’80 and Bristol got an additional table point for 4 trys, while their guests, London Irish, had to settle for a pair of t-ps only; red shown the Irish tighthead at ’40 with his side ahead 7-3 abso no help whatsoever; 12 for visitors 10, Stephen Myler, on 3-and-2 struck off his shoe, the last sticksplitter to draw level Bears near time;

                6             lead changes in lively action at Twickers with the home XV taking the last lead at the hour mark and Harlequins got the comeback victory, 23 - 19, over Gloucester; 13 for Quins 10, Marcus Smith, on 2-and-3 from his tee.

   upcoming Round 6:

                Friday, 12.20:

                                Gloucester (11) v (13) Worcester Warriors at Kingsholm: this’ll be a real ripper and guaranteed to affect the chart!
                Saturday, 12.21:

                                Leicester Tigers (4) v (15) Exeter Chiefs at Welford Road: only reason homeboys aren’t in the cellar is due Saracens consequences; Jefes could be happy road warriors today;  

                                Sale Sharks (12) v (19) Northampton Saints in AJ Bell at Salford City: homeys looking to rebound from their last, and against the top of the league... bang-bang-bang;

                                Saracens (-18) v (17) Bristol Bears in Allianz Park at Barnet Copthall: home side has no recourse but to defeat the remaining clubs on the schedule while holding their opponents pointless, making for determined desperation and damned exciting sport;

                                Wasps (5) v (10) Harlequins at Ricoh Arena: Hornets maintain the inefficient and insubstantial effort exhibited thus far this season, they may be the first club that Sarries overtake on their exit from the Premiership dun-dah-dun-dun dungeon;
                Sunday, 12.22:

                                London Irish (12) v (8) Bath at Madejski Stadium: travelers looking for joy, but the London venue may not be the place they find it, not this year;

Guinness Pro14 Round 7 Wrap
14 teams = 2 conferences of 7 in 5 countries on 2 continents playing home-away within the conference, plus non-conference teams once, plus 2 additional games for a 21-match schedule; Grand Final on June 20th at Cardiff City Stadium, with playoffs on the four weekends preceding that date
Home Happy: Connacht, Ulster
Road Warriors: Cardiff, Cheetahs, Edinburgh, Leinster, Zebre

With one-third of their campaigns done, Group A sees reigning champ, Leinster, out in front by better than a b-p win while in Group B, it’s all cozy at the top with four clubs within a four-point victory of one another.

By the Numbers:

                62           minutes after the starting whistle, Fijian-born Edinburgh flyer, Eroni Sau, touched down the go-and-stay-ahead try for the 18 - 16 road win over Munster at Thomond Park; first Scots joy there in 15 years;

                5              points in the 5-try home win for Ulster topping Scarlets at Ravenhill, 29 - 5; 24-0 midway; double for 13, Matt Faddes, the first to open scoring in the 4th minute, and the second to close it down in the 78th; travelers could not count until replacement three-quarters, Jac Morgan, born the very first 21st of January in this 21st century, touched down with 8 minutes left;  

                4              points left on the deck against 0 for the travelers and Cardiff returned 14 points in the final 15 minutes for the 31 - 28 road win at Treviso;

                2              trys for flyer J Porch paced Connacht to the 5-point joy at the Sportsground in a 24 - 12 win over Southern Kings;

                5             try Zebre got the bonus-point victory, 39 - 13, on the trot at Dragons;

                13           for Leinster 10, Ross Byrne, on 2-and-3 off his tee and a double by flyer, Cian Kelleher, against only a brace of touch downs by Glasgow 15, Ruaridh Jackson, made for a 23 - 10 road happy at Scotstoun;

                2              points in arrears at the half, 8-10, for Cheetahs no problem as Fast Cats returned to better hosts, Ospreys by a converted try in the second stanza for an 18 - 13 road win; Sea Eagles now on a six-game slide in their last half dozen between EPCR and their GPro14 efforts;

Upcomes Round 8:
                Friday, 12.20:
                                Leinster (33) v (25) Ulster at the RDS: true holiday happiness will be on for the better XV;
                Saturday, 12.21:
                                Zebre (7) v (14) Benetton Treviso at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi: result will be half the war for the Italian rugby elite title, naught supersedes that inspiration;
                                Connacht (24) v (25) Munster at Galway Sportsground: homeys looking to rebound from their pre-holiday gift to the Monarchs of the SoHemi last outing, while visitors were taken short last outing at sacred Kingspan and require significance here;
                                Dragons (9) v (21) Scarlets at Rodney Parade: travelers will be counting on a win here;
                                Glasgow Warriors (15) v (23) Edinburgh at Scotstoun: Round 1 in this season’s Battle for the Scots Crown and nothing else matters;
                                Ospreys (7) v (15) Cardiff Blues at Liberty Stadium: Wotcher, home boys?
* Cheetahs and Southern Kings are off over the December Break and will make up those matches during the first round of 6 Nations and at the end of May;

Top 14 Wrap - Round 10

Home Happy: Brive, Clermont, La Rochelle, Montpellier, Toulouse
Road Warriors: Bordeaux, Toulon

On the Weekend, By the Numbers:

                5              lead changes in the fractivity that saw both sides 13s, Virimi Vakatawa and Semi Radradra, for Racing and Bordeaux resp., ground braces and earn 10-minute seats at La Défense Arena on the busy day that kept the scoreboard turning over until a 34 - 30 record was had by the visitors; a penalty struck by 92 halfback, Maxime Machenaud, earned hosts the losing bonus point;

                14           for Toulon 10, Anthony Belleau, on 1-and-4 from the floor and the guest got the best of their host at Stade du Hameau with Section Paloise suffering 9 - 19 defeat;

                11           for Clermont 9, Morgan Parra, on 1-and-3 off the tee and home team got the 19 - 9 win over Agen;

                11           too, for La Rochelle 10, Brock James on 1-and-3 as the faithful at Marcel Deflandre celebrated their XVs  22 - 13 win over Castres;

                4             of 5 trys by Montpellier grounded by forwards and 4-of-5 converted by the home side 9, Benoit Paillaugue, for the 33 - 8, 5-pointer over current frontrunner, Lyon;

                16           for Brive 10, Thomas Laranjeira, on 2-and-4 from the floor as home side stopped Stade Français at the Amédée Domenech, 26 - 21; a sticksplitter by 21 years old Nico Sanchez relief at 10, Joris Segonds, got the Parisians the losing bonus point;

                            reds, one for the Bayonne 8 in the 33rd, and the second for their blindside at ’64 meant a whole lotta gaps for homeys to run through, which Toulouse did at the speed of 45 - 10; home 15, Tommie Ramos counted 13 on 5-and-1;              

Upcomes Round 11
                Saturday, 12.21:

                                Castres (18) v (35) Lyon at Pierre Fabre: travelers seeking to bounce back from the drub last time out, while the same goes for the home side;
                                Bayonne (21) v (22) Brive at Jean Dauger: Match-of-Weekend;
                                Racing 92 (19) v (24) Montpellier at La Défense: homeboys stumbled last out and their guests have not lost in the league since early October;
                                Agen (16) v (24) Toulouse at Stade Armandie: visitors formidable right now;

                Sunday, 12.22:
                                Stade Français (10) v (21) Section Paloise at the Jean-Bouin: Pau need it and so too their hosts;

                                Bordeaux Bègles (34) v (22) La Rochelle at Stade Chaban-Delmas: could be a nickel for the home team;

                                Toulon (24) v (24) Clermont at Felix Mayol: other M-o-W;