LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The USA Falcons won their group Thursday at the Las Vegas Invitational to advance to Friday’s Cup Quarterfinals in the Men’s Elite 7s Division.
Wins against Mexico, 14-7, The Selects, 35-7, and the Chicago Lions, 26-17, set up a Quarterfinal date with Northeast ODA Friday at 1:00 P.M. ET. The Serevi Selects, Maple Leafs, Lionheart, New Orleans, Belgium and Mana Utah fill out the rest of the Cup Quarterfinal match-ups.
Michael Ziegler was shown a red card in the opening minute of the Falcons’ match against The Selects and was forced to miss the deciding match of the group.
While Chicago had one loss going into its final match against the Falcons, the Lions could have played spoilers for Tony Pacheco’s men. A calculated effort from the Residency players saw the win through, however, causing the Falcons to win the group.
Salty Thompson’s Boys High School All-Americans, sponsored by Aircraft Charter Solutions, will begin play in the High School Elite 7s Division with two teams. The All-American teams are grouped with BCEY7’s 1, BCEY7’s 2, Upright Rugby Rogues, Ontario Jr. Blues, Washington Loggers, Atlantis, Toronto Rugby and Nor Cal All Stars.
Men’s Eagles Sevens Head Coach Matt Hawkins took in some of the day one action outside Sam Boyd Stadium before overseeing his team’s captain’s run inside the stadium.
“The ultimate goal is to be out there getting as much film as possible on all the games,” Hawkins said. “For all I know there’s a guy who does something pretty magical and Monday there’s an offer that says, ‘Come join us at the Olympic Training Center.’”
Twenty-five players were recently named to the 2014 Residency squad for the Men’s Eagles Sevens, creating competition for all 12 spots on the IRB HSBC Sevens World Series roster. The Falcons are made up of the players not selected for USA Sevens.
“They’re not old guys,” Hawkins said of the newer crop of players at the OTC. “They don’t really have that maturity off the field that some of the older, more experienced guys bring. So for us it’s, ‘How do we create that?’ We’ve got to bring in real youngsters to force [“older players” like Zack Test and Shalom Suniula] to be that elevated role and position.
“These youngsters give it a go. They come in and they don’t hold back. They were big fish in a small pond, now they’ve come to a bigger pond but they still think they’re the big fish. It’s great for us and for that competitive nature.”
Hawkins is working with all national team coaches – from BHSAA Head Coach Thompson to Men’s Eagles Head Coach Mike Tolkin – to ensure the player pathway to the national team works for everyone. Tolkin is also in Las Vegas to scout players.
“There is a progressive pathway that we are starting to put together and it takes me working with all the other coaches to make sure our pathway is something collaborative instead of everyone pulling in their own direction and trying to own their own piece of the pie,” Hawkins said.
Friday will also bring a special 15s exhibition match to Las Vegas with Men’s Division I powerhouse Belmont Shore taking on a North Texas All-Star side. North Texas won the Texas Cup late last year with four wins and a plus-181 point differential in the tournament.
“We’re thrilled to be able to present these young men to others and we’re going out there with our fingers crossed with a big dose of hope,” North Texas Head Coach Dean Robinson said. “We’re going to go out there and give Belmont Shore a really good game.”
USA Falcons | Las Vegas Invitational 2014