Having coasted through most of the Divison 3 Northern California conference in 2019 and enjoying a current five-game winning streak, the men of Napa Valley Rugby Club are sure to be confident heading into the national quarterfinals against Kern County RFC next weekend in Austin, TX.
Napa has progressed to the final eight by virtue of avenging their lone defeat on the season with a 53-31 drubbing of their rivals from Olympic Club in the Northern California championship before breezing their way through the Budd Bay Buffaloes, 92-0, in the Pacific North championship.
The road to these quarterfinals has certainly been a topsy-turvy one for the Napa men. Established in 2014, Napa Valley RFC grew rapidly, seeing as many as 85 players registered to the club within two years of its conception.
The sharp rise in numbers led to a remarkable 2016 season, which saw Napa advance all the way to the national semifinals before falling to the Euless Texans. On the back of their early success in the D3 ranks, Napa Valley RFC made the step up into D2. Although they experienced a successful 2017 season, the team fell victim to dwindling numbers and sadly had to step away from competitive rugby altogether in 2018.
However, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, Napa regrouped and reloaded during their season off and have come roaring back in Division 3 this year.
Back For Another Shot
Roughly a third of the 2016 semifinalist roster is still playing with the team in 2019, and foremost among those players is captain Jeremiah Bornstein, a hard-charging No. 8.
Along with Bornstein in the forward pack, teams must also have their eyes on hooker Finau Anitoni, who helped himself to a first-half hat trick in the Pacific North Championship against Budd Bay.
In the backline, the strings are pulled by co-captain flyhalf Cody Beckley, who led his conference in scoring on the season. Beckley will look to utilize the weapons around him this weekend, which include team try-scoring leader Stephon Harris at outside center, and speedster Jake Fernandez on the wing.
Napa Valley enjoys a wide-open game, and will look to break the gain line and stretch defenses on attack.
No surprise they play that way, as Napa Valley is led by head coach and recent USA Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Vaea Anitoni, an American rugby legend. Napa is a well-conditioned and well-drilled team that will be a tough out down in Austin this weekend.