USARL National Championship Preview
Atlanta Rhinos Vs New York Knights
August 26th, Life University, Atlanta GA
Kick Off – 6:30pm
Live Stream – Purple Moose Media
It is only fitting that the two undefeated teams from this year’s Southern and Northern conferences will battle it out to be crowned USARL National Champions. What makes the clash even more salivating is that whoever lifts the trophy Saturday evening, will be doing so for the first time in the USARL.
For the Rhinos it has been a stellar season thus far, finishing the regular season undefeated for the first time in the clubs short four year history before going on to a dominating victory over the Central Florida Warriors in the first round of the play offs, then posting an impressive come from behind victory against the Tampa Mayhem to be crowned Southern champions. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that the boys from Georgia only feature one import player from outside of the US, player/coach, Jordon Smedley from Australia. A key strategy for the club since their inception has been the desire to focus on developing USA based talent as opposed to going all out on imported players from countries such as Australia, New Zealand and England. It is fair to say the strategy is working, as this will be Atlanta’s second appearance in the big dance in just four years. The first being in 2015, going down to the Boston 13’s
With arguably the best forward pack in the competition, Atlanta will no doubt look for their big men to be dominant through the middle third of the field and to create some space for a number of attacking weapons they possess out wide on the edges. It is also worth noting that the Atlanta squad features four current USA Hawks in Nick Newlin, Hiko Malu, Terrance Williams and Sean Hunt, in addition to former USA international and USARL veteran Salesi Tongamoa. Their experience in the big games will no doubt be something the Rhinos look to come Saturday. The Rhinos will also take some added motivation into the championship decider, with Tongamoa announcing he will be retiring after Saturday’s game bringing to an end a stellar career.
For the Knights they have also been a dominant force in the Northern conference, with the New York boys having not tasted defeat all season. Dominant victories over Nova Eagles and then Brooklyn to be crowned champs of the North sees the Manhattan based club in red hot form leading into Saturdays decider. New York is a well-balanced side with plenty of strike power of their own out wide. They are steered around the park by talented half, Neill Thorman. Thorman, 32 has enjoyed a successful career with stints both in Australia and the UK. Current USA Hawk Joshua Rice is one of the best forwards in the country and is a hand full with every carry, and with former USA international Curtis Cunz in the second row, the Knights have plenty of experience in big games. As with good friend Salesi Tongamoa, Cunz will also end what has been a great career after the decider, adding only further to what shapes to be the closest championship decider in recent memory
Their Path to the South Championship –
Atlanta (58-20 Vs CF Warriors SF and 32-24 Vs Tampa SC)
New York (42-20 Vs Nova and 46-24 Vs Brooklyn