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Brazilian Exchange Bolsters Danville 7s

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Brazilian Exchange Bolsters Danville 7s

The 2nd weekend of the Dixon Youth Summer 7s series is in the books and it was a good Sunday for Danville, as they came away with bracket victories for both the Boys Varsity Gold and Girls Varsity Gold.

Above, Almeida finds some space. Below, Santos Silva looks for support. Bottom, Andrade in for a try. All photos Kailani Andrade. Click images to enlarge.

Danville - Bianca Santos Silva
Danville - Keanu Andrade

Pleasanton came away with wins in Boys Varsity Silver and JV Silver, while Dixon won Boys JV Gold and the U12 brackets. Land Park took the Middle School division.

The tournaments are held every two weeks, with brackets as young as U10. The next tournament will be July 12, with a championship weekend July 26.

For Danville, the tournament was a case of strong performances from players who have done well all season, plus two notable newcomers.

The Danville boys edged Dixon by only three points, and beat Sierra Foothills in an exciting encounter 26-12. That set up the final, where Danville took an early lead against Jesuit, gave up that lead, and came back late to win. It was the first time Danville had ever beaten Jesuit at the varsity level in 7s or 15s. Among the standouts for the Danville boys were Lorenzo Richardson and Keanu Andrade.

For the girls, an early tie with Pleasanton rocked them a little, and it was no surprise that they faced Pleasanton in the final, this time coming away with the win. With their regular coach,Sisi Hingano, in Tonga, recent Danville grad Kevin Woo took the reins and led them to a victory. Diana Manoa and Carolina Lomu both were critical in a physical, highly-skilled performance.

But the two newcomers for Danville are of special note. Gilmar Almeida was a dynamic presence for the boys team and Bianca Santos Silva was a defensive force for the girls. Both players are Brazilian, from Sao Paulo, and play for the Brazilian U19 team. The two are in the USA thanks to a program started by former St. Mary’s rugby player Steve Restaino. While traveling and volunteering around the world, Restaino discovered  Rugby Para Todos (Rugby for All) working with kids in Sao Paulo. He thought it would be a good idea to start an exchange with a club in the USA. He found the Danville Oaks.

“Quite honestly, I was blown away by the interest expressed by board members of the Danville Oaks, especially Tim and Roberta Mulholland, Steve Hoffman, and Jon Straka. Their efforts to locate host families, include Gilmar and Bianca on teams for the summer program, encourage the club to assist financially, and their genuine generosity are key to the success of the program.”  

The original plan was to send ten players to the USA from Rugby Para Todos. Restaino spent eight weeks teaching the kids English. But unfortunately a lack of funds meant only two could go to the USA in this first effort.

Almeida and Santos Silva are in the USA to develop their English language skills and learn a new culture. They stay with Danville players - Almeida is with Andrade and Santos Silva is with Riley Parker. 

“Keanu and Riley, and their families, are exceptional hosts for Gilmar and Bianca,” said Restaino. “Although, they are enjoying learning about a different culture their devoted to a demanding training program for their six weeks here that will prepare them for participating on the Brazil National Side.”

Right now, both players are among the best on the Danville team, and helping the Oaks win games. But, as is often the case with rugby, it’s about ore than that.