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Rhinos Come Back to Beat EIRA in National Youth 7s Boys Final

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Rhinos Come Back to Beat EIRA in National Youth 7s Boys Final

Rhinos in green, EIRA in red. Alex Goff photo.

Rhinos Rugby edged Eagle Impact Rugby Academy 12-7 to win the inaugural Boys 7s Youth Rugby Championship Sunday in Cleveland.

The Rhinos came back from a 7-0 deficit to score twice on the outside, with the second try being a penalty try, and then held on to win it from there.

It was a well-played game in humid conditions Sunday. EIRA had the run of play for much of the first half. They kicked off and a superb tackle from Wes Stone thrust Rhino into touch. From there the Southern California team had all kinds of trouble getting out of their own end, and eventually they had to concede a try, Keith Austin was at the end of a nice team sequence and burned Rhino on the outside.

But it had been slow going for EIRA. In a physical game where Rhinos center and captain Solomone Pifeleti was a powerful presence in midfield, EIRA had less space in which to move the ball and took all the first half to punch it in.

In the second half, it was Rhino more on the front foot, using their power and elusiveness up the middle and then sending it wide. Having brough in former USA 7s captain Craig Hartley to work with the team, Rhino was showing the benefits of developing that pattern.

Late in the second half Rhino broke around the outside and curled in for the score. The conversion wasn't good—kicker Niall Gavin shaking his head at the attempts—and it was 7-5.

"I had everything else right, I was keeping my head down, I was following through; the problem is, the ball bounced left so I didn't get the right bounce for the kick," Gavin said.

No worries, back came Rhino, and this time they sped around the edge on the left. The EIRA defense seemed to be there but the tackle to defend the try was high—penalty try, and an automatic seven points to make it 12-7.

For EIRA there was still time, even when they conceded a scrum as time expired, they ended up getting a free kick and one more bite at the apple. Once again the Rhino defense was there and bundled the EIRA runners into touch.

"I had to trust my teammates," said try-scorer Caelyb Ageire. "One that last play I lost the edge, and two of my teammates came over and tapped him out of bounds and we won the game."

For EIRA they will have learned a little bit about making territory pay off. For Rhino, it was an impressive run, especially given they lost to EIRA 28-5 on Saturday. Pifeleti said his team wasn't dialed in for that game; they certainly we for the final.

See all of Day Two action here>> 

The upstart Arizona Pumas took 3rd. Belmont Shore took third with a 24-0 defeat of the Panthers Rugby Academy.