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Day One a Gem at National 7s Youth Championships

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Day One a Gem at National 7s Youth Championships

San Diego showcased some great rugby, but didn't make the semis because of a 7-5 result in another game. Alex Goff photo.

The National Sevens Youth Rugby Championship has Day One wrapped up and there was plenty of drama, well-played rugby, and some surprises, too.

Overall the standard was very high and with 23 teams playing in three brackets every team got to see where they stack up.

“We’ve learned a lot,” said Rich Belanich, who coaches the Fox Valley Predator youth program out of Illinois. “We’re here representing small clubs—we’re a small local club and all our players come from within three miles of each other. We are showing that small clubs can compete but we also need to see what the competition is like at this level.”

“You see teams with skill and with athleticism,” said Eagle Impact Rugby Academy Head Coach Salty Thompson. “And you see teams with a lot of size. But you can manage the size if you are defensively organized and tackle.”

Here’s how the day went.

Boys Tier 1 

EIRA 24 Fox Valley 7
Rhinos 24 Back Bay 0
Celtic Barbarians 0 Panthers 26
Belmont Shore 12 San Diego 7
EIRA 28 Rhinos 5
Back Bay 31 Fox Valley 0
Celtic Barbarians 7 Belmont Shore 27
San Diego 12 Panthers 12
EIRA 14 Back Bay 10
Rhinos 40 Fox Valley 0
Celtic Barbarians 0 San Diego 42
Belmont Shore 5 Panthers 7


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There were some surprises and near upsets. Back Bay pushed Eagle Impact to a 14-10 decision and were very close to taking that game. Back Bay didn’t back down or get discouraged after an early loss to Rhinos.

Rhinos looked very effective but were beaten comprehensively by EIRA.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Rhinos Captain Mone Pifeleti. “Just try 100% and put it out on the field. We won the first game; we played with a lot of heart there. The second game … it was our game to take … but we were missing our fire out there.”

Still, Rhinos did enough to come out of the day 2-1 and finish 2nd in Pool A.

Pool B was a wild one. Belmont Shore edged their longtime rivals San Diego and then puled away from Celtic Barbarians 27-7 to go 2-0. Meanwhile, San Diego rebounded to tie a very handy South Panthers Rugby Academy 12-12. So it all came down to the final game of the day. With San Diego 1-1-1, they had to wait to see if 2-0 Belmont Shore could beat 1-0-1 Panthers. If Belmont Shore won, San Diego would be in the Cup Semifinals. If Panthers tied or won, the Southerners would pip the Mustangs for that spot in the semis.

the game itself was very hard-hitting and back and forth. Both teams had breakaways only to see those runners caught at the last moment.

Belmont Shore took a first-half lead with a try to make it 5-0. They almost put it away in the second half with a breakaway, but that cover tackle was there. Eventually, the South scored up the middle and converted to make it 7-5, and held on to get through to the top four.

Pool A
EIRA 3-0
Rhinos 2-1
Back Bay 1-2
Fox Valley 0-3

Pool B
Panthers 2-0-1
Belmont Shore 2-1
San Diego 1-1-1
Celtic Barbarians 0-3

Girls Tier 1

CRA 10 Perry 7
Medina 7 Panthers 31
CRA 0 Belmont Shore 34
Medina 0 Rhinos 29
Belmont Shore 46 Perry 0
Rhinos 27 Panthers 0


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Belmont Shore and Rhinos looked very strong in the Girls Tier, playing some wide open, expansive rugby in the process. 

“On offense we need to get deeper,” said Belmont’s Arie Toalii, succinctly. “On defense we need to push up as a team not as just one person.”

Belmont Shore beat Cleveland Rugby Academy 34-0 and Perry 46-0. Rhinos shut out a very capable Medina team 29-0, and then Panthers 27-0. Their defense was extremely disciplined and hard-hitting.

Cleveland Rugby Academy edged Perry 10-7 to take 2nd in Pool A  and Panthers took care of Medina 31-7.

CRA plays Medina Sunday morning and Panthers play Perry. The winners of those games take on Belmont Shore and Rhinos in the semis.

Boys Tier 2

West Park 5 Panthers 22
Arizona Pumas 21 Charlotte 14
CRA 10 Vienna 21
Wets Park 12 Rangers 24
Arizona 14 Rhinos 12
CRA 31 Belmont Shore 5
Rangers 24 Panthers 0
Rhinos 26 Charlotte 7
Belmont Shore 0 Vienna 24
West Park 14 Belmont Shore 26
Vienna 24 Charlotte 14
Arizona 26 Panthers 19
Rhinos 21 CRA 26

The big story out of Tier 2 are the Arizona Pumas, a brand-new select-side program that not only got together and made it to Ohio, but performed brilliantly. 

The Pumas edged Charlotte 21-14 in their opener and then held off Rhinos by a conversion. That set up an early quarterfinal between the Pumas and the 2-0 Panthers. Arizona put together some superb movements and took a 26-12 lead. Panthers rebounded and scored i the corner, making the touchline conversion, but they couldn’t score again and Pumas won 26-19.

The Rangers beat West Park and Panthers to go 2-0, while Vienna was also impressive, beating Cleveland Rugby Academy, Belmont Shore, and, in the quarters, Charlotte thanks to a stifling defensive effort. CRA rebounded to end Belmont Shore in impressive fashion.

That set up a Day One quarterfinal between Rhinos and CRA, with CRA pulling out a 26-21 victory.

One more quarterfinal remains, with Rangers taking on Belmont Shore. The winner of that game meets Cleveland Rugby Academy in the semifinals, while in the other semi Arizona takes on Vienna—four semifinals from four different states.