Another “ruck and roll” weekend is on tap at Infinity Park as the Glendale Merlins men and women feature in another rugby doubleheader this Saturday.
The Glendale Merlins men’s Elite team will kick off the in-stadium action as they host New York Athletic Club (NYAC). Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.
The visitors are no stranger to the Infinity Park turf, having recently played in Glendale back in early June when NYAC narrowly lost in the USA Rugby Emirates Airline Men’s Division I National Championship, 27-23 to the Austin Huns.
NYAC will be looking for redemption in their return to Glendale, but the Merlins are eager to defend their home grounds.
“As always, our expectations playing at home are to put in a good team performance and win,” said Merlins head coach David Williams. “We have some work-ons from certain aspects of our play last weekend and need to see improvements this weekend.”
Last weekend, the Glendale men put in a dominant performance with a 64-7 defeat of Boston-based Mystic River rugby, but the game was closer in the early stages with Glendale leading 19-7 in the first half.
Williams anticipates the big and powerful prop/lock Luke White as well as USA Eagle pool player Seth Halliman to play key roles for Glendale this weekend.
“Seth Halliman has shown improvements all season in the back line, and look for Luke White to have some strong carries and defensive efforts,” said Williams.
NYAC has their fair share of talent and USA Eagles as well, including former College All-American Nate Brakeley.
“NYAC will expect to win and and show a strong performance,” said Williams. “Nate Brakeley will run their lineouts and be a strong presence in the forwards with his carries and work rate. NYAC have a strong forward unit that expect to go forward when they carry and secure a good platform for their backs.”
Following the men’s match, the Glendale Merlins women will resume their Women’s Premier League (WPL) campaign against Oregon Sports Union (ORSU). That kickoff is slated for 5 p.m.
Last weekend marked a bye from WPL action for the Glendale women, but it was hardly a weekend off as they weathered top collegiate side Lindenwood in a closely fought 17-10 defensive showdown in the rain.
Despite an undefeated 3-0 record this season, and continued success in last week’s friendly, the hungry Merlins look to continue to get better as the WPL season rolls on.
“We have to keep building this weekend, it’s a long season and this is step four,” explained Merlins captain Sarah Chobot. “We have to keep increasing our physicality, and imposing our will for the whole 80 minutes. We have done a good job for bits and pieces of games, but we need to keep building on that front. Look for us to settle in more to our attack, and build some pressure! We have left a lot of points on the field and cost us some bonus points that could prove valuable later in the year.”
Glendale has had success against ORSU, winning both matches of last season’s home and away series, but the opponents have shown an ability to score, and boast numerous players which were named to last season’s WPL All-Star team.
“ORSU has had a mixed season so far, so it’s very hard to expect anything other than a tough match, big hits, fast running from Anna Symonds, Beckett, and Rachel Johnson – ‘The Terrible Trio’ on ORSU,” Merlins center/hooker Jeanna Beard said. “As far as unit dynamics goes, I think we will have the upper hand in scrums and open-field backs plays if we play our cards right.”
While Chobot and Beard look to make things happen in the scrum, both pointed to teammate Leann Lam to create movement from the center of the pitch.
“Leann may have the chance to show off some of her skills as fly half,” said Beard. “She’s got the classic scrumhalf pass, so we will be able to play a very wide game if we choose to do so. I’m expecting some big things from her.”
Additionally, Joanna McElroy will also play a key role in the attack at lock, and Kristen “Shilo” Shalosky continues to be a physical force on both sides of the ball.
Outside of the stadium match ups and on the Infinity Park Turf Field, the Glendale Merlins D2 Men will take on Denver Highlanders (1 p.m.).
Stadium gates will open at 2 p.m. Tickets for both stadium matches are available for $6 online at GlendaleMerlins.com or at the gate.
Can’t make the matches? Stream live or on-demand at infinityparkatglendale.com/live-stream.
Featured Image Credit: Seth McConnell, Glendale Merlins