CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – It’s simple math, really.
Win today and the P.E.I. Mudmen division A and B squads gain home-field advantage throughout the Rugby Nova Scotia senior men’s playoffs. Lose and the edge is lost.
So, the equation only has one solution for Phil Gallant of the Mudmen, the defending division one champs.
“Home field is huge, and we really feel it was the key to winning last year. Having your fans and support in town gives added energy that can push you in close games,” said Gallant, a longtime member and organizer. “We want playoffs to run through P.E.I. and this weekend we have the chance to try and lock that up.”
But it won’t be a cakewalk. Both teams finish the regular season on the road in Halifax.
The A side (6-0) faces Halifax RFC (3-3) at 5 p.m. after the B side (6-0) tangles with the Halifax Tars (5-0-1) at 2 p.m.
The Mudmen (29 points) lead division A over the Halifax Tars (5-1, 27) by just two points. Because wins are worth five points in the standings, a P.E.I. loss gives the Tars home field via a higher points margin despite the Mudmen’s win earlier this season over the Tars.
It means P.E.I. would host a semifinal at Co-op Field when the playoffs begin later this month but could travel if it reaches the championship game depending on the Tars semifinal result.
Division B is a similar scenario. Win and P.E.I. claims the division and home field with a 7-0 record while a loss and P.E.I. falls to 6-1 while the Tars rise to 6-0-1 and three points better in the standings.
“It is always good to be playing for something,” Gallant said. “Complacency can be a killer this time of year. You always want to be working on your skills and getting better each week otherwise you can get caught off guard in the playoffs. In games that have meaning it helps us stay sharp and have that playoff mentality.”
Gallant said the team’s overall health isn’t bad given the time of year, but there is some fatigue after a long season. However, one thing that is sharp is the focus and Halifax RFC won’t be taken lightly.
“We have some guys banged up and many tired guys from playing a lot of rugby. We really stress resting injuries and guys practising self-care for a stretch run,” Gallant said. “One thing we do well is not overlook teams. We know any team is great on any given day. We don't focus so much on the other team, but how we play and what we are in control of. That helps us limit mistakes and fine tune our own game.”