Important Update: The Florida Rugby Union reversed course on Monday morning, Feb. 4, and reclassified the 24 to 24 tie between Orlando and Tampa Bay on Nov. 3 into a 31 to 24 win for Orlando. The controversial overtime try by Orlando has once again been counted, which gives Orlando a 41 to 40 lead in schedule points leading into crossover play. As of Monday afternoon Tampa Bay was appealing the decision.
The Tampa Bay Krewe Rugby Football Club (RFC) took the top seed in the Northern Division of Division-II of the Florida Rugby Union (FRU) on Saturday, Feb. 2, with its 43 to 21 defeat of the Jacksonville RFC. The clubs met to play the match on Jacksonville’s (Fla.) home pitch at Huffman Park. The game kicked off at 2 p.m. under sunny skies in northeastern Florida.
The FRU originally scheduled these clubs to play this match back on Nov. 10. However, extenuating circumstances forced the teams to postpone the game for three months. Prior to this Saturday's Tampa Bay versus Jacksonville match, Orlando still maintained a lead in the point standings across northern Florida. Tampa Bay’s victory over Jacksonville provided the points needed to place the Krewe at the top of the standings.
In this match, the Tampa Bay Krewe scored seven tries and four conversions to earn its 43 points. Meanwhile, the Krewe held the Jacksonville RFC to two tries, one conversion, and three penalty kicks to reach the home team’s final total of 21 points.
Tampa Bay’s trip to the top was far from easy
Tampa Bay’s trip to the top in the Northern Division of the FRU was far from easy. In addition to Saturday's make-up match against Jacksonville, the Krewe’s ability to capture the north revolved around the Orlando Griffins and matches played across northern Florida on Nov. 3, Dec. 15, and Jan. 19. All of these factors worked together to give Tampa Bay the advantage heading into crossover play.
November 3, 2013: The Tampa Bay Krewe RFC hosted the Orlando Griffins RFC on the first official Saturday of the 2012-2013 Rugby Season at the original Krewe home pitch at Skyview Park. While the Krewe led the match 17 to 0 at halftime, the Griffins roared back in the second half. Orlando scored a final try just before the match ended, and tied the score 24 to 24.
After regulation, the decision to play an overtime period was made on the pitch. The clubs still dispute why this choice was made. During the extended play, the Griffins scored an overtime try, and appeared to win the match 31 to 24.
In the weeks following the game, Tampa Bay protested the decision on the grounds the official rules and regulations set by the FRU did not allow for overtime play during the regular season. Orlando maintained Tampa Bay had either agreed or recommended an overtime period, an assertion denied by the Krewe, so the hosting team should accept the consequences associated with the defeat.
By the middle of December, the FRU ruled in favor of the Krewe, and the official score for the match became the 24 to 24 tie the two teams scored prior to the end of regulation. Orlando’s coach unsuccessfully appealed this decision that changed the win by his club into a tie, and the FRU forced the Griffins to give up two of their schedule points to the Krewe.
December 15, 2012: The rematch between Orlando and Tampa Bay, the top two teams in the north, turned out to be the most-watched game of the regional portion of the 2012-2013 Rugby Season across northern Florida. Both clubs remembered the turnout from the match before, which still reflected as a win for Orlando at the time of play.
Each club fought hard, but the Krewe pulled out a 25 to 21 win over the Griffins on Orlando’s home pitch at Lorna Doone Park. However, the match turned out to be costly for both sides, as the referee issued numerous red card suspensions just prior to the conclusion of the match.
As of Sunday, Dec. 16, the day after the Orlando-Tampa Bay rematch, the FRU reclassified Krewe’s loss against Orlando from early November to a tie between the two clubs. Nevertheless, Orlando still maintained the lead in schedule points because of Jacksonville and Tampa Bay's postponed match from Veterans Day weekend.
January 19, 2013: Both Orlando and Tampa Bay knew they must win out the rest of the regional season to take the top seed in the Northern Division of the FRU. Since both clubs had proven themselves to be heads and shoulders over their competition across northern Florida, the Griffins and the Krewe began to concentrate on their shared goal of wining the north instead of taking the season one match at a time.
The mistake of looking ahead to crossover and post-season play took its toll on Tampa Bay that day, as the Krewe suffered a 46 to 22 upset at the hands of the Daytona Beach Coconuts RFC. This defeat seemed to plush Tampa Bay’s goal of attaining the top seed in the north out of reach.
However, the Jacksonville RFC embarrassed the Orlando Griffins 31 to 21 the same day approximately 100 miles north of Daytona Beach. This provided the Krewe an unexpected life line after the club's humiliating defeat by the Coconuts.
It is possible both clubs could have been suffering from the loss of top players due to the ongoing red card suspensions from the Orlando versus Tampa Bay match on Dec, 15. Nevertheless, these two matches proved Tampa Bay and Orlando could lose games by overlooking matches played against clubs considered to be out of contention for post-season play.
What lies ahead for Tampa Bay and Orlando
The top-seeded 6-1-1 Tampa Bay Krewe RFC, will begin crossover play by hosting the 3-5-0 Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Knights RFC, the number four seed from the Southern Division of the Florida Rugby Union. This match will take place on the Krewe’s home pitch at Cuscaden Park.
Meanwhile, the second-seeded 5-2-1 Orlando Griffins RFC will host the 4-4-0 Miami Tridents RFC, the number three seed from the south, this Saturday on the Griffins home pitch at Lorna Doone Park in Orlando, Fla.
Learn more about rugby around Florida and across America
For additional information about rugby action around the state of Florida, visit the website and Facebook page for Rugby in Florida, and the website of the Florida Rugby Union. For more news, reports, and scores regarding rugby action across America and around the world, visit the Rugby Mag website.