Atlantis Wins RugbyTown in Dramatic Fashion
Atlantis Wins RugbyTown in Dramatic Fashion
The Atlantis U18 boys team won the Serevi RugbyTown 7s U18 bracket in dramatic fashion in Infinity Park Saturday afternoon, with Mike Dabulas scoring the winning try with no time left to defeat a superb Utah Lions team 31-26.
Atlantis started the scoring with their impressive wing, Royall Jones of Hudson Catholic in New Jersey, dancing down the sidelines. Jones was taken down, but wasn’t held in the tackle and was able to get up and canter in under the posts. Sam Devine (Doylestown, Pa.) hit the conversion for the 7-0 lead.
But the Lions responded immediately. In a game of stark contrasts in approach, the Lions were combative, spying into contact and challenging the smaller Atlantis team to evade the hits. Utah forced a turnover and worked it out to Keagan Barnes (Lowland), who shrugged off a high tackle to go over. Colton Swapp’s conversion tied the game 7-7.
Atlantis replied, working the ball and trying to stay out of contact, and they found Jones once more - this time with big(isn) Nick Skalka of Gonzaga HS angling to the outside and attracting defenders before offloading to the winger. Jones touched down out wide and the conversion was missed, keeping the score at 12-7.
The Lions worked the ball nicely to get over the tryline in answer, powering through Atlantis tackles, but Jones was somehow able to get his hands under the ball to prevent a try. It was just a slight delay, though, as the Lions kept the ball on the scrum put-in, and another Lowland product, Swapp, sidestepped two Atlantis players to score. His conversion put the Lions up 14-12 at halftime.
The tries kept coming. Right from the kickoff the Lions tried to jar the ball loose and intimidate Atlantis with their blitzing defensive style. Atlantis players somehow avoided serious problems, thanks in large part to the superb handling and quick thinking of Greenwich scrumhalf Soh Nakayama and Archmere Academy co-captain Noah Niumataiwalu. That work all set up Kevin Trotter, who used Jones as a decoy and went up the middle to put Atlantis ahead 19-14 with the conversion from Nakayama.
But Utah replied right off the restart, with Swapp selling a dummy and bursting through to score from 80 meters out. His kick was wide, leaving the score tied 19-19. But the Lions weren’t done. A long restart kick pinned Atlantis in their 22 and the Lions defense forced a turnover. Sione Bloomfield powered on and almost scored. Atlantis committed a penalty, and while Bloomfield was somehow stopped short of the line, the Lions kept the ball alive and Evan Wilson of Davis HS stretched over for the go-ahead try. Swapp knocked over the extras and Utah led 26-19.
So with two minutes to go Atlantis needed a converted try. They got a little help with the Utah restart not going ten meters, and from the ensuing free kick, again Atlantis stayed out of trouble, sometimes using Skalka or Dabulas to challenge tacklers, but more often using Jones or Nakayama to probe for holes. Showing impressive patience, and avoiding the knock-ons that plague supposedly better and more experienced teams, Atlantis held on until Niumataiwalu scampered into the corner. The Archmere star had James Lyons in support and an inside pass might have made the kick easier, but the try was on offer and he took it. With so little time left Atlantis passed up on the kick attempts to kick off one more time, with 30 seconds left, and the Lions ahead 26-24.
But there was time, and when the Lions knocked on the line-drive restart, there was an opportunity. Once again Atlantis showed enormous patience, realizing that as long as they caught the ball and stayed in support, they could keep the game alive. It worked, and eventually Skalka broke around the outside, was taken down, and then offloaded to Dabulas who galloped to the corner. Amid the celebrations he, amazingly, kicked a perfect conversion from the sideline, but it didn’t matter, Atlantis had won.
Atlantis went 6-1 on the weekend, losing only to ATAVUS when they had already clinched a place in the final.
The Lions were very good themselves, going 5-2, with their only losses two close ones - the first game of the tournament and the last - against Atlantis.
It was a team performance from Atlantis, and all had their hand in it, but without the vision, security, and passing of the small but wiry Nakayama, Atlantis would likely have lost that final.
The Upright Rugby Rogues capped off a 5-2 weekend by beating the Glendale Raptors (3-4) 17-7 to take 3rd.
Tries: Jones 2, Trotter, Niumataiwalu, Dabulas
Convs: Devine, Nakayama Dabulas
Utah Lions 26
Tries: Barnes, Swapp 2, Wilson
Convs: Swapp 3
See the winning try here (if you don't see the video, refresh the page)