Day one of the Men’s Club 7s Championships on Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif. is a wrap, with half of the field still fighting for the coveted Cup and the rest relegated to the Bowl competition.
Old Puget Sound Beach, Old Blue, and the Denver Barbarians all won their pools with unblemished 3-0 records, while Belmont Shore topped its group with a superior point differential. Shore, the Tama Laie Lions of Hawaii and the Chicago Lions all finished 2-1 in Pool D, which proved to be the pool of death.
Chicago beat Belmont Shore, Belmont Shore beat Tama Laie and Tama Laie beat Chicago. The Kansas City Blues lost all of their pool games, but fell to Chicago and Tama Laie by just two and five, respectively.
Belmont Shore advanced as the pool champion with a positive point differential of 33. Chicago and the Lions had the same point and try differentials, with Chicago moving onto the Cup Quarterfinals via the fourth tiebreaker – points scored. The Hawaiians were edged out by just two points, a conversion, and in their game against Belmont, the referee overruled his touch judge, who had called a conversion attempt good.
That overruling proved the difference between a tie and a win against Belmont, who were in a must-win situation after falling to Chicago earlier on.
“I just told my guys to keep their composure,” said Belmont coach James Walker after losing to Chicago.
“I knew Hawaii was going to be a tough, physical confrontation that we had to fight through, but we’re actually a pretty big, physical Belmont team this year, so we thought we matched up pretty well with them. It came down to the last second of the game, and Mikey Te’o went through with the try and showed good composure for a young kid.”
After his try at the death to tie the game at 17-17, Te’o slotted the game-winning conversion.
The Barbarians won their first two Pool A games by relatively narrow margins, beating NYAC 19-5 and Charlotte 28-21. Both matches were tied at halftime. But in their final pool match, the Barbos raced out to an impressive 24-0 lead on SoCal champs the San Diego Old Aztecs before conceding a pair of late tries in the 24-12 win.
“We just kind of hit our stride,” said Denver’s Hunter Leland of the win over San Diego. “Waking up pretty early, not that the time zone is that much a difference, but the morning we kind of struggled, came out slow, and I think with this one we really wanted to show everyone what we kind of were. Playing the Aztecs, obviously, is great competition. We had an edge coming into this game, and we took it out.”
Also emerging from Pool A are the Old Aztecs, who edged Charlotte 21-17 and NYAC 19-17 to advance.
OPSB was the most impressive team on day one, torching the Youngbloodz, Daytona and the Maryland Exiles by a combined score of 96-26 to win Pool C. Speedy wing Fili Botitu ran in four tries for OPSB Saturday, and wooed the fans with a flashy stepping display, often garnering an extra shove from a frustrated defender.
The Youngbloodz, semifinalists last season, finished 2-1 and second in Pool C. They started off slow with a close 12-7 win over an athletic Daytona, peaked with a 26-10 win over the Maryland Exiles and finished with a deflating 35-7 loss to OPSB.
Old Blue won out in Pool B. They started the day with a convincing 26-5 win over local Olympic Club and recovered from a poor first half against OMBAC to win by two scores. Newly blooded Eagle Luke Hume played sparingly in those first two games, as Old Blue was cautious with his wrapped right knee.
Schuylkill River played most of the day without its most dangerous weapon, too, after Greg Ambrogi left in the first half of Skill’s first game with a re-aggravated ankle injury. When Skill and Old Blue met to decide the pool toward the end of day one, both of their top scorers were in street clothes, and the New York club won 14-10, outkicking the Mid-Atlantic champs two conversions to none.
“We’re right where we want to be, but we’ve only been playing about 50-percent of what we can do. We didn’t play our best game of rugby today, but we’ve got to up our stakes tomorrow,” said Old Blue’s Steve Strydom.
“I think we need to play more as a team. I think a couple of us were going into contact too much, trying to do too much ourselves. Going more as a team, I think we’ll do much better.”
Day Two Match-ups
Denver vs. Schuylkill
Belmont vs. Youngbloodz
OPSB vs. Chicago
Old Blue vs. Old Aztecs
Charlotte vs. Olympic Club
NYAC vs. OMBAC
Tama Laie vs. Maryland
Kansas City vs. Daytona