(Dobson Images courtesy of RugbyMAG)
Berkeley, Belmont Reign Supreme at Club Sevens Championships
The Berkeley All-Blues and Belmont Shore were anointed champions at San Francisco Golden Gate Sunday after winning the Emirates Airline USA Rugby Men's and Women's Club Sevens Championships. Berkeley took out the Boston Belles 34-0 in the final and Belmont Shore beat Schyulkill River 37-14 to reclaim their sevens crown. The All-Blues made American rugby history by winning the first-ever Women's Club Sevens championship in the country.
Kelly Griffin won the women's MVP award and USA international Shalom Suniula won the same honor on the men's side.
WOMEN'S CUP FINAL
Berkeley battled through the pool stages of the women's tournament, losing to NOVA (who was later eliminated from cup contention by Boston) and tying Boston in the pool stages.
Continuous improvement with every match was key to their success in the final. In the championship game, every player contributed and linked on attack to devastate Boston's defense which was physical but, all in all, overwhelmed by the All-Blues.
In the final, the All-Blues captured the momentum early and never relinquished it. USA international Nathalie Marchino was the danger woman and her teammate Griffin proved to be a lethal finisher. Irene and Elaine Gardner scored a brace of tries apiece, as did Griffin who also tallied four points via two conversions.
Marchino was outstanding in the tournament and tallied six tries on day one to help her team through to the final She was exceptional in the final as well, exhibiting physicality and phenomenal passing skills to move her team down the field.
MEN'S CUP FINAL
On the men's side, Belmont had very tough path to the final particularly on day two. They escaped a nearly epic upset at the hands of the Eastside Banshees in the Cup Semifinals 17-12. A strong Chicago Lions side gave Belmont a run for their money as well, but Belmont prevailed in the waning second of the encounter to pull ahead and hang on 14-7.
Onto the final and facing a very impressive Schyukill River side that had defeated the Utah Warriors in thrilling fashion to win entrance to the cup final.
Enterprising play and flat out pace and skill gave Belmont the edge and ultimately the title, and exceptional passing and team play made the difference in the end.
Taylor Howden had a brace of tries and Justin Boyd was very solid to get a brace of his own. However, it was a comprehensive team victory for Belmont. Riaan Hamilton, flyer Alex Ross and Ed Pitts all chimed in on the score sheet as well.
Belmont coach, captain of the USA Men's Sevens team and Belmont Shore man Matt Hawkins credited a whole team effort with the win.
"Having 12 guys with plenty of skill and talent isn't enough. The team needs to gel and work together. If you look at teams like Schyulkill River, they play exceptionally well as a team and that is why they were successful," Hawkins said.
Men's MVP, Shalom Suniula, touted his team's group effort and noted that the level of play was encouraging for all the teams in the tournament.
"Given the short season, the team came together really well. We kept things pretty simple, used the width of the field and didn't try to do anything too fancy," Suniula said of his team's tactics in the tournament.
A regular on the USA Men's Sevens team, but having played most of his club rugby overseas, Suniula acknowledged the quality of play of all teams was impressive.
Belmont can claim four finals appearances in four years, with a 75% strike rate in the finals.
Men's Club Sevens Championship
Cup Champions - Belmont Shore
Cup Runner-up - Schyulkill River
Plate Champions - Chicago Lions
Plate Runner-up- Marist Hawaii
Bowl Champions - San Francisco Golden Gate
Bowl Runner-up - Boston
Women's Club Sevens Championship
Cup Champions - Berkeley All-Blues
Cup Runner-up - Boston Belles
Plate Champions - Glendale Lady Raptors
Plate Runner-up - San Diego Surfers
Cup Final Box Scores
Tries: Boone (1), I. Gardner (2), Griffin (2), E. Gardner (1)
Conversions: Griffin (2)
Tries: Howden (2), Boyd (2), Pitts, Ross, Hamilton
Tries: Wright (2)