The American National Rugby League swings back into action this weekend and the pick of the matchups is an Atlantic Conference top of the table clash in New York City. #1 Bucks County Sharks will defend their hold on first place against #2 New York Knights at Pier 40 in Manhattan. The Sharks (3-1) and Knights (2-1) have been swapping places at the top of the AMNRL standings since the season kicked off last month, although Bucks County has held on to first place longer. After five rounds, the Sharks sit on 16 points on the ladder ahead of the Knights who are sitting on 12 points, but that could change this week depending on the final outcome. The Knights can regain first place with a bonus point win provided they also restrict Bucks County from earning bonus points of their own from tries and limiting the final margin to six points or less. This will be the first time these two teams have played each other since the 2009 season. A little further north on I-95, there will be a doubleheader in Norwalk, CT, where the hometown Connecticut Wildcats will host the Aston Bulls in the early game, before the Delaware Vipers clash with the Northern Raiders in the late game. The Wildcats (2-1) currently hold down third spot in the standings, the Bulls (1-2) are fifth, the Raiders (2-2) lie in fourth place, while the Vipers (0-3) will be looking to move out of the cellar.
In the Pacific Conference, the TS Islanders will take on the Marist Marauders. Anthony Sunia, who played with the New Haven Warriors in the AMNRL Grand Final two seasons ago, will orchestrate a 1-0 Marist team again this week that is just a month away from sending its speed filled back line to San Francisco to play for the USA National Club Championships of Rugby 7s. That star studded back line includes Molo Vaka, who is a member of the Rugby 7s National Team pool, and three 19 year old sensations, 6'3" and 260 pound Emagi Vaimasanuu (the youngest of three very solid brothers playing for Marist), at inside center, Apelu So'oalu, outside center for the USA Rugby U20 team that just returned from the World Championships in Europe, and Drake Miller who is a super speedster at wing who is still making up his mind about where he will play his university Rugby next year. The speed of that back line may pose some major problems for the opposing defenses on Saturday. But Marist is not just speed outside it also has size, power and experience up front with two of the biggest men in Rugby League in Hawaii anchoring its scrum, Uale Rae, who played Rugby League extensively in Australia, and Dan Asuao, the captain of the side, joining Peter Stowers , who is proving himself to be as brilliant a player/coach in League as he is in Union and 7s, in the forward pack.
This week Marist will have a new opponent in Tama Sulu Ie Islanders, a very well coached team known for its size and power game, which vies annually with the team from Maui for the unofficial title "Hardest Hitting Team in Hawai'i. That title will almost certainly be decided this year when the highly anticipated match between Maui and TSI will take place on July 16 at Pearl City HS Stadium. While the TSI team coached by the illustrious Patch Tevanga is well know for its up front power, including that of his younger brother Tasi who is their star hooker, they are not without speed in the backs. They feature one of the best outside threats in Hawaii in Etimani Etimani and have a very dangerous halfback in the extremely laterally mobile Manu Peni.
The action kicks off again this Saturday at 4:30 pm at Kapiolani Park and Tweets of the scores will be sent as they occur.