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Rugby New York face Seattle for title amid groups’ unlikely paths

New York City has a championship caliber crew on its palms — and no, it’s not the Yankees or Mets. 

Rugby New York is making ready set to face off in opposition to the Seattle Seawolves within the Major League Rugby championship sport on Saturday at Red Bull Arena. Coverage of the nationally televised battle will start on Fox at 12 p.m. Eastern. 

The league, now in its fifth season, constitutes the best degree of rugby competitors on American soil. What started as seven groups has now developed to 13 scattered throughout main markets within the United States and Canada. 

For New York and Seattle, the highway to an opportunity on the MLR Shield — an 80-pound trophy made from carbon and titanium metal — has not been straightforward. The 16 sport, 18-week season has been rife with punishing hits, stunning scandals and unbelievable upsets. 

Coming off a powerful common season during which they completed 11-5 and third within the Eastern Conference, Rugby New York entered the postseason seeking to win their first playoff sport since MLR’s inaugural season in 2018. After dropping consecutive convention championships in 2019 and 2021, CEO Ric Salizzo and his crew had been decided to make a deep run in 2022. 

Members of Rugby New York huddle
Rugby New York got down to redeem their consecutive convention championship losses.
Getty Images for Rugby New York

“When you lose two conference finals in the last second by one or two points, it starts to hurt you, and when it hurts you learn,” Salizzo advised The Post. “When we went on to the playoffs this year, we were pretty determined that didn’t happen again.” 

Sure sufficient, New York defeated Rugby ATL 26-19 within the Eastern Eliminator. Rugby ATL was the identical crew that ousted Rugby New York from the playoffs final year. One week later, New York upset the No. 1 seed New England Free Jacks — who led the league in factors and wins — 24-16 within the Eastern Conference remaining. 

Just like that, Rugby New York punched their ticket to the championship sport. Before settling into JFK Stadium in Hoboken this season, Salizzo struggled to even discover a place for his crew to play. 

Rugby New York and the Seattle Seawolves previously played in May.
Rugby New York and the Seattle Seawolves beforehand performed in May.
Getty Images for Rugby New York

“At the beginning of last season, we were digging ourselves out of snow so we could find somewhere to train,” Salizzo mentioned. “We didn’t have a floor due to COVID — it closed off all of the grounds the place we usually performed. 

“Here we are now getting ready to run out on Red Bull Stadium and play in the MLR championship final. So it’s been a really interesting journey with lots of twists and turns, but … it’s led us to the right place.” 

Seattle’s journey so far was much more unlikely. The Seawolves had been mathematically eradicated from playoff competition following a lackluster 9-7 season, however acquired a miracle berth after Austin Gilgronis and L.A. Giltinis had been disqualified for undisclosed guidelines violations. Seattle, the 2018 and 2019 champ, didn’t let their golden alternative go to waste, reaching the championship by beating the San Diego Legion 43-19 and the Houston SaberCats 46-27. 

Major League Rugby is the best degree of rugby in America.
Getty Images for Rugby New York

“They’re going to be a hell of an opponent,” Salizzo mentioned of the Seawolves. “They’ve got a big powerful group of forwards … and really fast, exciting backs, so we know we’ve got a real challenge on our hands.” 

Salizzo is aware of, nevertheless, that his guys might be as much as the take a look at. Rugby New York sports activities many formidable stars, together with Rugby World Cup Champion Andy Ellis, New Zealand-born Will Tucker (who’s set to face off in opposition to his brother Brad within the championship) and homegrown abilities Connor Buckley, John Powers and Nick Civetta. For Civetta, a Scarsdale native, taking part in for his hometown crew is a dream come true. 

“I always had it in the back of my mind that if I could play at home, I would absolutely jump at the opportunity,” Civetta mentioned. “So to have professional rugby here and to be around family has been great, and I’ve really enjoyed every moment of it.” 

Playing alongside Buckley and Powers, longtime residents of Rockaway, Queens, and Xavier High School graduates, is icing on the cake. 

“They add so much New York flavor to the team,” Civetta mentioned. “You can see them improving week in week out. They’ve been so impressive, and occasionally they bring in bagels, which makes me happy and keeps the boys happy.” 

It stays to be seen if celebratory New York bagels are in retailer Saturday evening.

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