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Surprises Throughout National Youth 7s Finals Day

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Surprises Throughout National Youth 7s Finals Day

LA Tribe brought it this weekend.

For those who think the major, high-profile academies make major tournaments a fait accompli, consider the National Sevens Youth Rugby Championships.

Eagle Impact Rugby Academy and Rhinos did not dominate—they played well to be sure, but the trophies went elsewhere.

Boys Tier 2

The semifinals came down to Westpark vs Rhino Academy and Westpark, with a physical style of play that allowed them to play with plenty of confidence saw them win comfortably 29-5.

The game opened with a Westpark kick shortly received and taken into contact. The Rhinos immediately showed their clear strengths by getting the ball wide and making good progress through the gainline. After a poach following the tough running, Westpark's athleticism gets them the ball out wide and a b-line to the tryline in the corner. The Rhinos go hands off the receiver and end up scoring before the Westpark's defense had time to react, and tied it up 5-5

Westpark, after losing the ball and giving Rhino a chance to make some ground, pushed back and nabbed a cheeky poach. That led to a quick tip pass to the wing and they dove in at the corner to make it 10-5 for Westpark.

The second half opened to a Rhinos kick that gives Westpark good field positions early into the half. The Shamrocks powered on and scored through a nicely-taken run from Henry McGowan. McGowan's imposing runs started to tell and Westpark began to pile up the tries, winning 29-5.

In the other semifinal, Loudoun County (LoCo) faces off with Celina from Texas. Celina won comfortably to go to the final.

So Texas vs. Ohio in the final and here it was a battle. Westpark started well and scored a try. But they had more possession and scoring chances, and just couldn't convert. Westpark's pass-first approach tested the Celina defense but the Texans tackled hard throughout. Celina broke through just as the first half ended, but desperate tackling kept them in check and Westpark held on 5-0.

In the second half, Celina picked up where they left off. They took the restart and probed the Westpark defense. The hits were powerful, but eventually Celina found a little seam on the outside. and a long, 80-meter run tied the game up.

It stayed that way through the next four minutes or so. Celina's defense did well to pin Westpark in their half and because they were making their tackles, Celina didn't have to bunch up, and kept their shape.

Celina then finally stole the ball. A little sidestepping pulled the attention of two Westpark defenders and then the ball was sent wide. Once again Westpark's commitment to making contact worked and a brilliant tackle in the corner forced a knock-on.

But that meant the play went back to an earlier penalty and Celina tapped and scored. The conversion was good, and there was no time left. Celina, playing a really nice brand of 7s, were Tier 2 champions.

It was Westpark's toughest loss of the season, in part because it was their only loss. They had been undefeated going through the Rookie Rugby Cleveland season and the Rookie Rugby Ohio playoffs, as well as all the games in this National championship. It took an alert quick-tap with no time left to down them.

Final Order of Finish:
Champions: Celina
2. Westpark
3. Rhino Academy
4. LoCo
5. USA South Red
6. CRA

Girls Championship

It was clear from the outset that Rhino Academy and Belmont Shore would be playing in the final. Cleveland Rugby Academy's two teams played hard and showed plenty of good rugby, but were outmatched often for pace and for strength.

They learned a lot about the level needed to succeed at higher levels and welcomed the chance.

Belmont Shore went on to beat Rhino Academy in the final.

Rhinos led early but they had had to work very hard for that 7-0 lead. But Belmont Shore plays a very quick game and while their players aren't big, they are physically strong and don't stop. Shore scored to make it 7-5 and then in the second half a long kick, a perfect chase, a forced penalty, and a tap put them up 10-7.

Then it was a case of acceleration. Belmont Shore got a seemingly innocuous penalty in their half, but cut through for a long run that seemed like it would be a surre try. But Rhino's cover defense was impressive and stropped that score.

Eventually, though, Belmont scored one more time and that was it, 15-7 and Belmont Shore were champions.

Final Order of Finish:
Champions: Belmont Shore
2. Rhino Academy
3. CRA Blue
4. CRA White

CRA Blue took on CRA White for 3rd. It was a good-natured game as these players were friends. The were helping each other up and laughing in good manners throughout the entire game. It started when Blue pushed in their first try off of a long break byItalia Duniec, who showed impressive speed. Blue pushed off that momentum to put in another score up the middle a minute later. The girls in white almost put in a try to shave down the score at halftime, but we’re unsuccessful.

Blue went into the halftime break up 17-0 and cruised from there. White scored off a line break, and then Amy Rolinc scored two to finish it off 29-5.

Boys Tier 1

The Boys Tier 1 bracket was hugely competitive, and one excellent example of that would be Belmont Shore, which lost all of their games on Day One, but then made the semifinals after they regathered and came back to beat the Charlotte Tigers 22-14.

The other quarterfinal (USA South and LA Tribe got byes to the final because they were the top two seeds), saw a rematch of the 2021 final with Rhino Academy vs EIRA. This game seemed to be EIRA's as they ran out to a 19-7 lead with three minutes to go.

A long period of play ensued with Rhino pushing into EIRA territory and Eagle Impact's discipline letting them down. Finally a hard charge through a seam made it 19-14.

By the time of the restart there were 30 seconds left. EIRA looked to score one to ice it. But Rhino made a poach with no time left, and a powerful run and some offloads set them up to put it in at the corner. That tied it up 19-19. The conversion from the sideline was good, and Rhino was through.

In the semis, Belmont Shore ran up against a really nicely-drilled USA South team that won going away. Tribe beat Rhino in the second semifinal. Their power in their big players, and their ability to then send it quickly through the hands to their pace players was a deadly combination.

Makai Harris and Manoah Faupusa were especially dangerous.

So on to the final. 

South pushed Tribe early but Tribe's big boys were very difficult to stop. The South tacklers were there but they were being shoved off. Faupusa's big run set up a pick-and-go and a 7-0 lead for Tribe.

Some snappy ball movement saw the South to get close and then, oddly, they actually scored on a pick-and-go, with smaller players showing you can get lower and still power through. Score: 7-7.

South chipped through off a scrum and chased nicely but the chaser seemed to lose his footing or maybe was pushed. Play went on and the Tribe picked up and rushed upfield. He was called back and the officials discussed it all. The ball seemed to have rolled dead before any push. So, not a penalty try, just a penalty, and South spun it wide quickly and scored in on the opposite side.

Once again the team that had scored first in the final was now behind. 

Down 12-7 Tribe came back in the second half, getting a turnover in the South half, and charging on before scoring up the middle. Now the Tribe led 14-12. Then they scored again on an improbably, scampery run to make 21-12. After that the Tribe kept the pressure on. They worked the width to score one more time to win it 28-12.

It was a truly impressive showing by the Tribe, who were not intimidated one bit by the higher-profile names in the tournament.

Final Order of Finish:

Champions: LA Tribe
2. USA South
3. Rhino Academy
4. Belmont Shore
5. Charlotte Tigers

Additional Reporting: Nate Polinko, Liam Burrows, Thomas Burrows