GLENDALE, Colo. – The USA Rugby AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans Sevens team could not replicate last year’s championship run at 2014 Serevi RugbyTown Sevens last weekend at Infinity Park, but Tony Pacheco’s team did manage to snag a trophy and help the USA Falcons win the tournament.
Capped Men’s Eagles Sevens players Patrick Blair, Garrett Bender, Madison Hughes, Ryan Matyas, and Steve Tomasin were members of the Cup-winning 2013 team that went undefeated against top senior-level sides like Glendale Raptors and Serevi.
Shaun Potgieter and Glen Thommes were the only returners for this year’s tournament, which was held across three days in Glendale. While collegiate players like Michael Al-Jiboori and Ke’von Williams were considered for selection, Pacheco said it was important to get “as many guys playing at a high level as we can.” Al-Jiboori and Williams featured for second-place Denver.
The MCAAs seemed to pick up where they left off against the Royal Air Force Spitfires in the opening match of Pool D, or the “Pool of Death.” Martin Iosefo, in his first action with the MCAAs, gave Thommes no other option but to pass it to the University of Montana man with a great line in the first minute to open the scoring.
AIG MCAAs v Royal Air Force Spitfires
The play was reversed in the sixth minute, as Iosefo set up Thommes for the MCAAs’ second try and a 14-0 lead. Josh Bower, who also kicked the MCAAs’ conversion during the three-day tournament, gave his team a 21-0 half-time lead with a try and successful conversion just before the whistle.
Central Washington’s Aladdin Schirmer was next to get on the score sheet with a try in the first minute of the second half after a well-constructed offensive attack from the kickoff. Kingsley McGowan of D1A Champion Saint Mary’s College helped fellow championship finalist Harley Davidson of Life University score the next try before McGowan’s Gaels teammate Joe Reavey did the same for a sixth MCAA try and 38-0 victory.
The MCAAs’ hopes for a Cup berth took a hit in their second match Friday against Northeast ODA, who took an early lead in the third minute. It could have been earlier if not for strong defensive work from the MCAAs to deny a long run and multiple phases just outside the try zone.
AIG MCAAs v Northeast ODA (match starts at 36:00)
Men’s Eagles High Performance Sevens camp attendee Richard Kirkland was sent to the bin not long after the restart and MCAAs went to work, with Thommes finishing the attack with his second try of the tournament.
Northeast took a 12-5 lead into the half after a second try in the sixth minute, but the California connection of Reavey, McGowan, and Seb Sharpe pulled the MCAAs closer with the UCLA man’s try early in the second half. Thommes and Iosefo combined again for Iosefo’s second try of the tournament and the 15-12 lead not long after.
Despite having extended periods of possession, the MCAAs could not find a way to kill off Northeast and paid for it, as the Olympic Development Academy snatched the win with two quick tries to end the match, which finished 22-15.
After the loss to Northeast ODA, the MCAAs required a win against table-topper Denver in the final match of Pool D for a chance to repeat as Serevi RugbyTown Sevens champions.
Denver’s Maximo de Achaval had ideas of his own in the first minute of the match and beat Thommes to his own chip kick in-goal.
AIG MCAAs v Denver (match starts at 1:19:20)
Tonata Lauti set Schirmer free in the third minute, but he was dragged into touch before he could reach the try zone. McGowan dotted down a minute later, however, after a skip pass from Davidson to put the MCAAs on terms with Denver at 7-7.
Iosefo appeared to score a try in a third consecutive match, but the assistant referee raised his flag a step before Iosefo crossed the try line for going into touch. Bower would make up for it with a try before the half-time whistle.
The MCAAs held the 14-7 lead until the 10th minute, when Colorado State University’s Ben Pinkelman set up Williams for a try, though the conversion was wide, leaving the MCAAs ahead, 14-12.
Williams, whose game-breaking speed was on display all weekend, outran Lauti to the try zone in the 13th minute to give Denver a late, 17-14 lead, before de Achaval added the insurance try in the final minute of the match.
“I think our youth kind of shone through a couple times and lack of composure and experience kind of held us back,” Pacheco said. “I thought we could’ve finished off Denver.
“We got a little while-line fever. It was just the youth attacking the line, when we could’ve just been a little more patient and walked out and really put all the pressure back on them. Instead, they stopped the slide, were able to go down and score, and really flipped the whole game.”
Following the 24-14 defeat, Men’s Eagles Sevens Assistant Coach and Falcons Head Coach Chris Brown called on Pacheco’s Aladdin Schirmer as an injury replacement for the Falcons’ Pila Taufa.
“Aladdin was one of the players that really stood out for his confrontation for a young man, but also what to do in contact and he was great on defense, in the right position,” Brown said. “We had a list of probably 20 players [at the tournament] to look at this week and he wasn’t one of them, although Tony had identified him himself.”
The MCAAs entered the Bowl competition, where they rolled through Navy in the Quarterfinal. Having already played four matches to the MCAAs’ three, Navy struggled to get much going offensively and only managed one try in the 36-7 defeat.
AIG MCAAs v Navy - Bowl Quarterfinal (match starts at 1:21:40)
Iosefo assisted Adam Sandstrom’s first try of the tournament and played the role of provider again before the end of the first half for Sharpe’s try. The MCAAs were penalized for an early tackle as a Navy player dove over the try line at the end of the half, and the referee awarded a penalty try.
Iosefo and Lauti each scored two second-half tries to end Navy’s Bowl hopes as the MCAAs strolled to the 36-7 win.
The Republic of Texas awaited Pacheco’s team in the Bowl Semifinal. Coached by James Walker, Texas had struggled in pool play against Glendale and Mexico and did not receive any mercy from the MCAAs.
AIG MCAAs v Republic of Texas - Bowl Semifinal (match starts at 1:08:00)
Iosefo scored his fifth and final try of Serevi RugbyTown Sevens in the first minute of the match, but Texas quickly leveled the score with an individual try from inside the team’s own half. McGowan was instrumental in the MCAAs’ second try, which was scored by Thommes.
Though they were only leading by an unconverted try at the half, the MCAAs had not given Texas opportunities to score other than the one try. Efficient tackling and structure resumed in the second half and McGowan extended the lead to 17-7 in the 10th minute. Chris Frazier dotted down in the final minute to add the icing to the Bowl Semifinal cake and give the MCAAs a 24-7 win.
Pacheco briefly spoke of Iosefo’s influence in the MCAAs’ matches prior to the Bowl Final: “He’s pretty raw, but he’s got some ability, that’s for sure. I think he got a lot better . . . he’s a guy who has some upside and is still learning the game.”
The MCAAs bookended Serevi RugbyTown Sevens with a rematch against the Royal Air Force Spitfires in the Bowl Final. Thommes scored his fourth try of the tournament in the match’s third minute to give the MCAAs a 7-0 lead, and Iosefo nearly scored his sixth before a well-timed tackle in midfield. The Spitfires entered the score sheet in the sixth minute with a try, but Reavey set up Davidson for a try just before the stroke of halftime for a 14-5 lead.
AIG MCAAs v Royal Air Force Spitfires - Bowl Final (match starts at 29:20)
An RAF penalty in the ninth minute proved costly, as Bower sent the ball wide to McGowan for the try and a 19-5 lead. A similar play occurred in the 12th minute, when the Spitfires took a quick tap from an MCAA penalty to score another try.
Leading by a converted try, the MCAAs played smart, keeping the ball for the majority of the remaining minutes until an RAF player passed the ball forward to bring the referee’s final whistle.
“The RAF is a great team,” Potgieter said post-match. “We’ve played them a few times in the past few years and they’ve always given us a go. They came out [Sunday] and really put us to the test. It was a great game.”
While the overall goal of winning the competition was not met, the MCAAs’ performance will have helped players in the national team spotlight. With the 2014-15 IRB HSBC Sevens World Series just around the corner, the Eagles could soon call upon some of the MCAAs on show in Glendale.
AIG Men's Collegiate All-American Sevens |
|First Name||Last Name||School/Club||Height||Weight (lbs.)|
|Josh||Bower||Central Washington University & Seattle-OPSB||5'11"||185|
|Chris||Frazier||Northeastern University & New England Prime||6'3"||225|
|Martin||Iosefo||University of Montana||6'1"||215|
|Tonata||Lauti||University of Utah||5'8"||175|
|Kingsley||McGowan||Saint Mary's College||5'11"||195|
|Shaun||Potgieter||Arkansas State University||6'1"||220|
|Joe||Reavey||Saint Mary's College||5'9"||180|
|Adam||Sandstrom||Arizona State University & Chicago Lions||6'3"||210|
|Aladdin||Schirmer||Central Washington University||6'3"||225|
|Seb||Sharpe||University of California Los Angeles||5'9"||185|
|Glen||Thommes||University of Delaware & Schuylkill River||6'3"||220|
AIG Men's Collegiate All-American Sevens | Coaching Staff
Tony Pacheco - Head Coach
Evan Haigh - Coach
Eric Taber - Manager
Brian Finn - Trainer