By Julian Clarkstone
The Northern Virginia Eagles and D.C. Slayers are separated by 2 competition points and sit in second and third place respectively. This week’s clash between the two sides looms as a defining match in the seasons of both teams. The last time the two sides met the Eagles won convincingly, defeating the Slayers 54-18. The Slayers cannot be underestimated, particularly at their home ground of Duke Ellington Field, and they will also be high on confidence after winning their last two games against the Rebellion and Black Foxes.
The Eagles are also brimming with confidence after two big wins over the last two rounds, racking up 126 points. The Eagles backline has been working very strongly together with their Australian halves pairing of Alex Franklin and Cameron Pyne setting up their plays. Despite their clear attacking power, coach and Vice President Christian Seaman does not think this week’s match will be won purely on offense. Seaman said, “I don’t think it is going to be a matter of defense or offense, but rather setting the tone in the first 10 minutes of the game, getting in the right mindset and continuing it throughout the whole game.”
It is very possible that the Slayers and the Eagles could meet in the first round of the playoffs, so the winner of this match can also obtain a psychological boost before their next potential encounter. The Eagles have been ensuring their preparation at training has been smooth in order to be ready for the match. Seaman said “Everyone is feeling good. We will have to be very focused and be strong at practice this week before coming together on Saturday.”
After winning four from their six games, the Eagles have been rewarded with three of their players being named in the 35-man pre-select USA Hawks squad. Ryan Burroughs (fullback), Joseph Reichert (second row) and Justin Hackett (centre) were all selected in the squad and are all in their first full year of rugby league.
Each of the three players have drawn on their football experience and Burroughs and Hackett have transferred skills from rugby union. Coach Seaman praised the efforts of the three players, who are in a team that is filled with players that have not have long term rugby league experience. Seaman stated, “Ryan’s speed and agility are hard to match and Justin is similarly talented with a lot of power and an ability to run around defenders. Joe on the other hand has been outstanding in defense. There haven’t been many players who have been able to get by him and he often makes four tackles in a row.”
The match against the D.C. Slayers will be this Saturday at 3.30pm at Duke Ellington Field. The Northern Virginia Eagles will need their three Hawks pre-select squad members and the rest of the team firing in order to get a pivotal win and give them a boost on the run to the playoffs.