NAI 7s Rundown: Nine Champions
NAI 7s Rundown: Nine Champions
Rhinos Rugby Academy won three separate brackets in the NAI 7s, two select sides we haven't really seen before won, and at was also a tournament for existing clubs that wanted to perform at this all-star stage.
Here's a rundown:
U14 Girls and Boys
The U14 games were, as usual, well-played and showcased skill and knowledge of the game that older players would have been very proud of.
For the girls, Rhinos Academy pulled away from Belmont Shore in a game that is just another step in a heated rivalry. Restarts were crucial in this game. Rhinos led by a try at halftime, but the initial kickoff of the second half was taken right up the middle by Rhinos for a try under the sticks. Belmont replied, but then the next restart was, once again, taken straight through to paydirt.
Those two converted tries basically was the difference in a 26-10 win for Rhinos.
With the boys, the Charlotte Tigers capped off a superb season with a very impressive win over Belmont Shore. Shore had done well to make the final but were undone by a very fast and adventurous Charlotte side that also defended brilliantly to win 33-0.
U16 Girls and Boys
The girls bracket had all sorts of talent and ability, and Sacramento PAL Amazons did well to get through all that. They brought power, perhaps more power than most teams, They punished Eagle Impact Rugby Academy when they were too slow to pass the ball, they rucked well, and finished the stronger. It was a case of a team that was basically its regular club lineup beating select sides, including in the final, because they had unity and trust.
In the Boys game EIRA was in the final as well. But they had needed to beat Belmont Shore 14-12 to get there and that semifinal required every ounce of effort. Rhinos, meanwhile, beat another Rhinos team and while it was a competitive match, it wasn't the same.
Rhinos were much fresher in the final and they were able to take EIRA out of their game. Scampery and pacey, Rhinos torched EIRA on the outside and in gaps and won 26-10.
U18 Open Boys and Girls
One of the new programs out there was Pioneer 7s, which was started by Nusi Tukuafu, who has roots in both Hawaii and Utah. So, this team has roots in bioth Hawaii and Utah and the result was a team with height, pace, power, and just enough humility for the players to realize they needed each other.
It was a dramatic game with Belmont Shore going up early and trading scores with Pioneers. But the new guys pulled away late.
Pioneer 7s made the Girls final also but fell to the Cavaliers of Pleasanton, a club program that played some really smart 7s and defended exceptionally well. Pioneer expected to break away down the sideline, and they did, but often the Lady Cavaliers were able to make those crucial cover tackles. That was the difference as the Cavaliers won 22-10.
The Oasis 7s team is a group made up mostly of players were were high-schoolers together in the Doylestown team of circa 2015. They reunited—most of them playing college rugby at Penn State, Kutztown, and Dartmouth—and they slowly started to produce some excellent 7s.
Having had only one practice before they played, Oasis relied on their history together, and it worked, playing a better team game and working the ball wide nicely to defeat Rhinos 19-10.
U18 Invitational Boys and Girls
Rhinos controlled the girls final in beating ARPTC 41-7. The ARPTC team had been able to offload, move the ball, and run their system, and Rhinos somply didn't let them do that. They were up hard and fast on defense, rucked ARPTC off the ball, and punished ARPTC mistakes without hesitation.
ARPTC's restart errors were uncharacteristic and surely they would like that game back.
The Rhinos skill level, especially in how they were able to make long, smooth passes to either wing, was exceptional.
Eagle Impact Rugby Academy had to wait until the final game of the weekend to win a championship, putting away Utah Warriors Academy 24-12. For the most part, EIRA Navy was in control. Utah put a little bit of a scare into them, but tenacity when the scoring opportunities showed themselves proved key for EIRA.