Rebel Rugby Wins NAI 7s U18 Elite
Rebel Rugby Wins NAI 7s U18 Elite
The North American Invitational 7s had some new faces this year, and that was especially noticeable in the Boys U18 Elite bracket.
Eagle Impact Rugby Academy was not there, as their focus is on a multi-team 15s tour of Ireland. But even programs we normally see in the finals, such as Atlantis or Rhinos, weren’t playing for the championship.
Here’s how, and why, that happened.
One of the stories of this year’s U18 Elite bracket was that teams with greater familiarity among their players did, in general, better. Whether this was because many more coaches have improved their 7s coaching, or because there have been fewer opportunities for compilation teams to find competition in which to bond, or something else remains to be seen.
What was clear was that players who were familiar with each other, in several examples, were more successful.
Layton Christian was one of those teams. They play as a unit in the spring 15s season and they certainly played as a team this weekend. Using their power and aggressiveness, they unseated Atlantis in the quarterfinals 28-19.
Utah Warriors overcame Gorilla in a tight one 24-19. But the real head-turner was Berks County vs Rhinos Rugby Academy. Berks had, ironically, struggled with their team unity on Day One and weren’t shy about acknowledging that.
But they ironed out their issues over Friday night and focused on a quarterfinals matchup they weren’t too happy about, as Rhinos were one of the favorites. The game itself was a thriller. Rhinos would score, Berks would score, Rhinos would score … you get the idea.
Late in the game Berks, down 21-14, could have accepted a plucky loss, but instead got one in at the corner and made the touchline conversion to tie the game 21-21. So the game went to overtime.
In OT Berks absorbed some pressure, got a turnover around their 22-meter-line, and then Steven Flinton took off. The Berks speedster scored from 75 meters out, and Berks was through to the semis.
Berks has played as a HS club in 15s and also through the summer in 7s. They had one non-Berks player in their lineup for the NAI 7s.
One select side did make it to the semis, as Rebel Rugby Academy rode their intense, well-organized, and physical defense to a 26-5 win over Kahuku.
In the semis, Rebel was too much for Berks, stifling the Berks runners and working nicely together. Well-coached, well-led, and organized, Rebel controlled the action and won 35-5.
Layton Christian then edged Utah Warriors 19-12 in another tense game to make the final.
In the final, Layton Christian’s unity helped them stay in touch but their discipline let them down. With the score 12-7 in favor of Rebel Layton had to think they were in with a shot. But as they pushed for the tryline they were turned over and the ball was sent out to Cormac Saint. Finding himself just a few meters in front of his own tryline, Saint curved around one tackler and took off down the sideline.
He was about to be caught and smartly grubbered the ball ahead, chased as the ball bounced around, and finally dove on it to score a momentum-changing try.
In the second half, LC saw the game drifting away and when another kick ahead was tried by Rebel a late tackle produced a yellow card and a penalty for Rebel. After that it was all Rebel. They worked the ball nicely and exploited the player advantage to cruise 27-7 in impressive fashion.
Berks put it all together and scored late to beat the Utah Warriors Academy to take an impressive third, while a clearly frustrated Rhinos team won the Plate, beating Kahuku 31-14 and Gorilla 21-12.
Order of finish:
1. Rebel Rugby Academy
2. Layton Christian
3. Berks County
4. Utah Warriors Academy
5. (Plate) Rhinos Rugby Academy
6. Gorilla Rugby
7. Atlantis Teal
9. (Bowl) Pioneer Selects
10. Washington Academy of Rugby
11. Atlantis Black and East Rugby