With the winter break only 6 days away, we head into the final week of Men's D1 rugby action in Midwest with some crucial match-ups that will likely have affects on the standings tables.
Metropolis at Scioto Valley
While Metropolis (Minneapolis, MN) have locked up first place over the break, Scioto Valley (Columbus, OH) are fighting off a challenge from Milwaukee to hold onto their second-place rank. They need at least a draw or 2 bonus points to guarantee their spot over the winter.
With a 6-3 record, Columbus have the talent to win the match outright. And Metropolis can be beaten as the Griffins showed us in Week 8 with a 21-19 victory in Chicago.
And Metropolis are most vulnnerable on the road with Milwaukee Rugby nearly handing them a loss back in week 2 before losing in the dying minutes of the match in a close 19-16 contest.
As the hosts, I expect Scioto Valley to grind out a narrow victory over Metro and significantly close the 8-point gap separating 1st and 2nd place in the week 9 standings.
Griffins at Blues
The Griffins (Chicago, IL) are on the road again this week, heading to Kansas City with hopes of ending the year on a positive note against the Blues.
Although the Griffins find them selves in unfamiliar territory at 6th place, many of their matches have been close, and their form in the last 2 weeks has been much improved with a win at home over Metropolis in week 8 — the first loss of the year for the visitors — and a very close, bonus-point loss on the road to the 2nd-ranked Scioto Valley in week 9.
The Blues are the new-comers to the Midwest following their inclusion in the new USA Rugby restructure, and are having a successful season with a 5-3 record. However, the Blues struggled to defeat the Wolfhounds in week 8 who have had the wooden spoon all season at the bottom of the table.
In week 9, they dropped an important match to the Lions (Chicago, IL).
All things considered, I'd say this match is too close to call, though the Blues do have home-field advantage. I expect a draw or a very close match assuming the Lions have their full squad on tour.
Barbarians at Lions
The Barbarians (Milwaukee, WI) close out the year with a trip to Chicago for one of the most anticipated matchups between long-standing rivals in US Rugby.
After some losses early in the season, the brew-city outfit has been on a tear recently with five consecutive victories including a home-and-away series vs. Palmer (Davenport, IA) and a comprehensive Milwaukee Rugby victory at home in week 9 over the Wolfhounds (Cincinnati, OH).
Similarly, the Lions have had some recent success with 2 straight wins at home over the Blues and Scioto Valley. They will be looking to extend their streak to three while hosting the Barbarians.
However, given Milwaukee's consistency as of late, their win over the Lions in week 5, the relatively short travel to Chicago and lack of any major injuries, I expect the Barbarians to notch up another bonus-point win, retain 3rd-place overall to keep the pressure on Scioto Valley in the standings.
Palmer at Wolfhounds
After a great start to the season, Palmer has had a rough October with three consecutive losses and a drop from 3rd place to 7th in the standings.
The Wolfhounds have also had a rough season, with perhaps the highlight being a near upset at home vs. the Blues in week 8.
Although a victory by the hosts would not affect the standings, the Wolfhounds are hungry to get a point in the Win column.
With home-field advantage and a struggling Palmer, I predict an outright win for Cincinnati.