NEWARK TO OBETZ – As our Republic Airlines jet (dba United Airlines) hit potholes in the sky that bounced us 15 yards in all directions as though we’d been hit by Chris Baumann (click this, you must see the photo) and Jamie Mackintosh simultaneously, repeatedly and without warning, thoughts of wife, family, friends and puppy all were front and center. But I also kept contemplating was what a crime it would be to come this far (as a rugby lifer) and not see the first-ever PRO Rugby championship… and miss out on working with Dan Power and FrikkIe Loubser on the broadcast team.
What’s that you say? It’s not a championship. The hell it isn’t. Sure, the fledgling league didn’t designate a post-season tourney. Heck, they didn’t even officially declare that tomorrow’s match would be a championship. But the Rugby Gods (not yet Richie McCaw!) aligned their oval-shaped planets and deemed it be so. The Aviators of Ohio would host the Stampede of Denver. The home team is in second place going into this clash… second to their foes from a city a Mile High. And they’ll need a bonus point to win the hardware, which is proudly – if not murkily – displayed by PRO Director of Rugby Steve Lewis and his co-worker Dom DeFalco, outside NYC’s Flatiron Building (it looks like an iron from above. Bing it).
And as Martin Pengelly so astutely points out in his excellent column for The Guardian, the way this “title decider” came about was certainly unlikely. But we all know it was the Rugby Gods – or at least The Ghost of Webb Ellis – that made certain a team known only as Ohio dropped 4 sure tries in the try zone vs the team formerly known only as Denver, in a PRO-only extra period.
And how about an undefeated Stampede getting trampled by a plodding and seemingly lost Rush squad? There are more examples of the inexplicable or improbable that got us here… ensuring that this inaugural and historic season’s finale is truly being played for all the marbles. But the oxygen mask deployment is and extremely disconcerting turbulence is making typing nearly impossible.
So take a bow, PRO Owner Doug Schoninger and Director Lewis. You pulled off what nobody else has. And you to Coach Barford and Coach O’Leary. On behalf of all rugby fans – even those that can’t stand to see this happen for some reason – thank you.
And let’s not forget the men on the pitch that will be banging heads, slinging their bodies into rucks (feet planted, of course) and shaking off the dings, knocks and full body bruises one last time. Without further ado, here are the rosters…
Home Team first:
That’s all for now. Can’t wait to get to the PRO Rugby Coincidental Championship Cup… just hope it’s one piece.
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