In the clash of rugby titans that unfolds on Saturday to determine who wins the championship of the USA Rugby Super League, one thing is clear: Life University's gay-friendly team from Atlanta wins hands down when it comes to the hunk factor.
First, the match: San Francisco Golden Gate and the Life Running Eagles meet at 9 p.m. EDT at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., for the national championship game. ESPN Classic will broadcast the match. SFGG took the Red Conference with a 6-1 record, while Life took the Blue Conference with a 7-0 tally.
San Francisco Golden Gate reaches the final in dramatic fashion after a last minute 19-16 win over a game ready Denver Barbarians. Prop Jason Bowden crashed over for a try after a series of sustained pressure by SFGG to seal the victory.
The win sends SFGG to their first RSL title game since 2004 (second overall) when they were defeated by Belmont Shore 24-21. The win by SFGG also denied Denver a second straight playoff upset and their second ever trip to the finals.
On Sunday, the Life Running Eagles secured their spot in the finals with a clinical 25-3 win over Belmont Shore. The win ends Belmont Shore's amazing streak of seven straight final appearances. The win just adds to Life's remarkable return to the USA Rugby Super League. At the beginning of the year, Life wasn't even on the RSL schedule but became a late addition to the league after St. Louis unexpectedly dropped out.
What they've accomplished to this point has been unheard of, but not entirely unexpected. The win sends Life (9-0) to their first RSL final (second overall) since 2000. Life will hope for a similar result as they defeated Aspen for the 2000 title 43-21.
Now, the hunks: I've been a big fan of Life U's ruggers since last December, when the college jocks playfully paraded around a gay bookstore—often shirtless—to promote a charity calendar that fetaured them. Nearly nude. (In fact, the Blue Conference's leading scorer--Nick Coetzee--is also Mr. January in the calendar.)
The coverage of the appearance on Outsports and my site that focuses on Atlanta helped alert the school to its growing gay fan base. Members of the gay Atlanta Bucks Rugby Football Club were among the fans watching Life's playoff matches and the school reached out this week to alert me to a press conference and the championship match Saturday.
So, as my way of returning a little love the guys showed the gays last December, I dug through the photo archives and pulled out a few favorites. Go Running Eagles!
View the full photo album from the December event.
Matt Hennie blogs on Atlanta's gay sports scene (and other stuff) at Project Q Atlanta.