Schuylkill River and Life West book tickets to Club 7s after East/West Opens

With the 2019 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championship in Kansas City, Mo. on the horizon, the first two bids were handed out this past weekend as Schuylkill River and Life West won the Eastern and Western Open Qualifiers. The tournaments saw intense play from all the participating teams where ultimately, Schuylkill recovered from a yellow card to rally for a 19-14 victory over Old Blue and Life West starved Belmont Shore of possession for a 29-7 win in the West.

EASTERN OPEN

A new champion would be crowned at the 2019 Philadelphia 7s USA Club Rugby Eastern Open Qualifier as the bid to Nationals came down to the tournament hosts, Schuylkill River, and Old Blue of New York. Weather delayed the start of the final, but Schuylkill fought back from a halftime deficit to win 19-14 and book its trip Kansas City.

“Our defense was almost unbreakable,” Schuylkill coach Chris Ryan said. “The only time they broke through was when they had a yellow card and scored two tries. For the rest of the time, we are making our tackles and contained them. We had a great defensive stand on the goal line, turned it over, and went down to score a 100-meter try. The belief was born there that we could do it and [after] the yellow card, we went back and scored two more tries.”

Teams from three geographic unions gathered in Malvern, Pa. for the Philly 7s and the pools consisted of Dallas, Northern Virginia, Washington, and Schuylkill River in Pool A and the Beltway Elite, Austin Huns, Old Blue, and the Pittsburgh Pandas in Pool B. Old Blue and the Beltway Elite advanced to the cup semifinals from Pool B, but Pool A ended in a three-way 2-1 tie between Dallas, Washington, and Schuylkill River. Based off point differential, Schuylkill and Washington moved on.

In the semifinals, Schuylkill defeated the Beltway Elite, 12-5, and Old Blue took out Washington, 25-5. As the semifinals were ending, the weather gods decided to put a damper on the festivities with a torrential downpour accompanied by lightning and thunder. Tournament officials suspended play and the teams had to wait two hours before play could resume with many late games being canceled.

After the weather delay, Schuylkill and Old Blue finally took the field and the Exiles drew first blood with slicing cut to the inside from Pete Mulville. Old Blue got its first break soon after when Bruce Dolan was sent to the sin bin and the New Yorkers pounced on the opportunity. Gavan D’More-Morrison quickly tied it up with a try and he scored again off the ensuing kickoff for the 14-7 halftime lead.

Back at full strength after the break, Schuylkill refocused its efforts and Dolan redeemed himself with a tackle-shattering scamper down the middle of the field to tie it up. The Exiles’ defense was stellar in the second frame and DaQuan Parker scored to put Schuylkill up with less than a minute remaining. With 30 seconds left, the hosts contested the kickoff and Old Blue knocked it on ending the game.

Old Blue coach Dom Wareing characterized the final by saying, “Hard fought, back and forth final with the lead being exchanged a couple of times, it looked like we may have done enough to win but ultimately had two tries disallowed. We had no answer for Schuylkill’s physicality as they regularly broke tackles, which had us scrambling and was the difference between the two sides.”

Schuylkill doesn’t have the big names as other top clubs, but each player knows their role and executes. Bruce Dolan had an all-around great tournament scoring an important 60-meter try in the final and Coach Ryan noted that Pete Mulville was a huge contributor playing in the air and being a load to bring down. Lastly, Pat Boyle was the rock of his team and was instrumental in holding the squad together with his leadership and direction.

The Exiles can now relax and hone their skills ahead of Nationals in August. “What it really means is we don't have to win another game all summer and we are going to Nationals,” Ryan said. “In non-coach speak, we get to work on things with a long-term goal in mind… We don’t have to prepare for these tournaments and can do some long-term planning. We’ll try to get better in some very specific areas so when we get to Nationals, everybody’s areas are fine-tuned and we’re doing well.”

The Philadelphia 7s was a full day event utilizing four fields at the Greater Chester Valley Sports Complex. In addition to the men’s Open Qualifier, there were men’s and women’s club divisions, a youth flag rugby tournament, and a women’s premier division featuring Scion Rugby, D.C. Furies, NOVA, and Philadelphia. Scion went undefeated and beat the Furies in the final.

WESTERN OPEN

At the Western Open, eight teams fought for the automatic bid at Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif. Belmont Shore, the Westside Ronin, San Francisco Golden Gate, and Life West Blue, the Gladiator’s second side, battled it out in the first pool and the Sacramento Capitals, San Jose Seahawks, Olympic Club, and Life West White, its top side, were grouped in Pool B.

Saturday’s pool play ended with Life West White and Belmont Shore posting undefeated records and the Westside Ronin and San Jose notching two victories each. In the quarterfinals on Sunday, the top four squads emerged victorious setting up the semifinals of Belmont Shore versus San Jose and Life West White against Westside.

When the dust settled, Life West and Belmont came out on top in semifinals to set up a rematch of last year’s Western Open final. Looking for revenge of 2018’s narrow loss, the Gladiators were prepared and dominated the championship for the 29-7 victory.

Both sides were stacked with talent, but Life West used its size to its advantage grabbing five of the seven restarts in the match. Martini Talapusi, Lorenzo Thomas, and Josefa Vuatalevu scored one try after another for a 19-0 halftime lead. The Gladiators didn’t let up in the second as Cecil Garber scored off the kickoff and Jihad Khabir juked his way to an 80-meter try. Belmont’s Sione Masoe broke the shutout in extras, but Life West earned its ticket to Nationals with the 29-7 win.

“Obviously, it was the two best teams of the tournament in the final,” Life West coach Adriaan Ferris said. “Life West was very keen to reverse the result of last year’s final and we ended up doing that pretty convincingly in the end.”

“We got some big men on the team, and speaking with player/coach Tim Stanfill, we worked out how we needed to attack them. We really put a lot of pressure on the kickoffs. With Anthony Welmers and Sebastian Grimberg up front, we attacked them in the air and we got the first two kickoffs, which put a lot of pressure on them… Belmont only had the ball for a minute or two the whole game and we maintained possession, which fatigued them a lot. Obviously, when you are playing rugby 7s without the ball, it’s pretty difficult.”

Although Life West is full of college talent from Lindenwood, AIC, and St. Mary’s, it was the veterans who made their presence known. Devereaux Ferris was awarded tournament MVP with his consistent play on both sides of the ball. His defensive effort in the final was especially noteworthy as he prevented at least two tries. Additionally, player/coach Tim Stanfill stood out with a five-try performance against San Jose and led by example from the front.

With the pressure of making Nationals lifted, Ferris and Stanfill can focus on preparation for a title run. “We're able to book our tickets first thing tomorrow morning,” Ferris stated. “It allows us to train with confidence knowing that we are definitely going to Nationals. It gives a lot of teams’ confidence when you do that but I think that we've got let's work on. Tim and I spoke on the need to keep going on from here and focus especially on defensive areas and continue to work hard. We have five weeks until Nationals so we need to make sure we look at building depth.”

Eastern Open Score Report

TEAMSCORETEAMSCOREMATCH
     
Dallas Rugby10Washington Rugby22Pool A
Northern Virginia Rugby7Schuylkill River Exiles19Pool A
Austin Huns42Pittsburgh Pandas5Pool B
Beltway Elite24Old Blue of New York26Pool B
Dallas Rugby21Schuylkill River Exiles19Pool A
Northern Virginia Rugby7Washington Rugby29Pool A
Austin Huns5Old Blue of New York29Pool B
Beltway Elite40Pittsburgh Pandas0Pool B
Dallas Rugby26Northern Virginia Rugby10Pool A
Schuylkill River Exiles19Washington Rugby0Pool A
Austin Huns12Beltway Elite36Pool B
Old Blue of New York34Pittsburgh Pandas0Pool B
Schuylkill River Exiles12Beltway Elite5Cup Semifinal
Old Blue of New York25Washington Rugby5Cup Semifinal
Schuylkill River Exiles19Old Blue of New York14Cup Final

Western Open Score Report

TEAMSCORETEAMSCOREMATCH
     
San Francisco Golden Gate17Life West Gladiators Blue12Pool A
Westside Ronin5Belmont Shore Rugby26Pool A
San Jose Seahawks19Sacramento Capitals7Pool B
Olympic Club Rugby19Life West Gladiators White31Pool B
Life West Gladiators Blue5Belmont Shore Rugby35Pool A
San Francisco Golden Gate12Westside Ronin19Pool A
Sacramento Capitals19Olympic Club Rugby5Pool B
Life West Gladiators White50San Jose Seahawks5Pool B
Westside Ronin19Life West Gladiators Blue5Pool A
Belmont Shore Rugby31San Francisco Golden Gate0Pool A
Olympic Club Rugby5San Jose Seahawks22Pool B
Sacramento Capitals7Life West Gladiators White32Pool B
San Jose Seahawks24San Francisco Golden Gate12Cup Quarterfinal
Belmont Shore Rugby34Olympic Club Rugby5Cup Quarterfinal
Life West Gladiators White40Life West Gladiators Blue7Cup Quarterfinal
Westside Ronin42Sacramento Capitals5Cup Quarterfinal
San Jose Seahawks7Belmont Shore Rugby34Cup Semifinal
Life West Gladiators White24Westside Ronin10Cup Semifinal
San Jose Seahawks7Westside Ronin33Consolation Final
Belmont Shore Rugby7Life West Gladiators White29Cup Final