BLAINE, MN – Rugby Utah proved again why it is a 7s powerhouse against Denver, a familiar foe, in the final.
On day one, Pool A saw Rugby Utah Selects take the top position while national newcomers Bulldog Rugby out of Connecticut led by Stevie Lewis got the second spot. The Washington Athletic Club took care of Old Blue to win Pool B while the team from New York claimed the second seed. Pool C was strange as three of the four the teams had 1-2 records. The Denver Barbarians dominated the pool and was the sole team with a winning record of 3-0, but Belmont Shore snuck into the cup playoffs with the next best point differential of -7. Pool D was quite the opposite as three teams had records of 2-1, but it was the Chicago Lions and Life West Gladiators who had the two best point differential to make it to the cup playoffs.
On Sunday, Utah, Belmont Shore, Washington, and Denver made it to the semifinals. Utah then made light work of Belmont Shore 31-7, while Denver was challenged for the first time this tournament and got past Washington, 26-21. This set up an all-Frontier Region final between Utah and Denver. This summer, Denver held the advantage over Utah, having won the last two of three confrontations.
In the first three minutes of the championship, both teams played strong defense until a yellow card by Denver gave Utah’s Joseph Nicholls the opportunity to score the first try of the match. Eagle 7s player Don Pati was then sent off the field for tackling a player in the air which put Utah at a one man disadvantage and Michael Al-Jiboori made the most of it by bumping off some defenders to give Denver the lead 7-5 going into halftime. Al-Jiboori struck again after getting the ball off a turnover to score his second try of the match in the opening minutes of the second half to extend the lead.
However, Al-Jiboori struck again after getting the ball off a turnover to score his second try of the match in the opening minutes of the second half to extend the lead. However, Utah attacked down the whole length of the field to respond with a try by Gabe Ruflin to make it 14-10. Off the kickoff, Denver played some champagne rugby to keep the ball alive and set up the speedy Devrin Young for the try. Utah was not done though. Utah played aggressively with little time remaining and Josh Whippy gave a give and do to Pati to score, but a converted try was needed. Denver received the kickoff in its territory and just needed to kill time to take home the championship, but De Achaval’s deep kick down the field had few defenders chasing after it and Pati made a spectacular run to start a series of offloads which ended with Josh Anderson under the posts for Utah to win the championship 22-21, after the successful conversion. Both teams showed tenacity, but a costly decision by Denver is all that it took to give Utah the opportunity to clinch back to back championships.
The Washington Athletic Club won the third place matchup against Belmont Shore, 38-19. In a Northeast Region matchup, Old Blue defeated Bulldogs 19-14 for the Plate and Dallas won the Bowl.
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