With a bid to the USA Rugby Men’s College Championship on the line, the #14 UCSB men’s club rugby team hosts Central Coast rival #9 Cal Poly this weekend in a battle for first place.

The showdown features the top two teams in the Southern California Rugby Football Union, where the Gauchos (6-4 overall, 6-1 in the SCRFU) hold a slight edge over the Mustangs (10-3, 6-1 SCRFU) in the standings, having amassed 32 points to Cal Poly’s 31.

“Its going to be our biggest game of the year,” senior flanker Scott Padway said. “The winner is going to get an automatic seed to nationals.”

Santa Barbara is riding the momentum from last weekend’s dramatic 39-17 comeback win against UCLA. After a slow start, the Gauchos trailed 17-5 before reeling off 34 straight points to win the match. The squad is currently on a season best three-game winning streak and has not allowed more than 17 points during the stretch.

“We played well against UCLA last week,” Padway said. “That will help us with our confidence because we know we have the ability to play top level rugby. We showed that in the second half against UCLA.”

Cal Poly is coming off its most impressive win of the season, dismantling Long Beach State 135-0 last Saturday. The Mustangs fell in their previous match to #12 San Diego State 35-24.

Each team has one match remaining after this weekend to improve their spot in the SCRFU standings. The Gauchos travel to Long Beach State on March 17, while Cal Poly takes on the University of San Diego on the road on the same day.

The loser of Friday’s contest will put their postseason hopes in danger, as they will likely fall into third place. The SCRFU receives two bids to the national championship tournament and awards one slot to the regular season champion. The final bid is decided by a playoff between the second and third place clubs.

“The best thing we can ask for is to play in front of a huge crowd at Harder,” Padway said. “We love it when we get the fans out for the game, especially under the lights on Friday night.”