USA U23 Men Win RugbyTown 7s
USA U23 Men Win RugbyTown 7s
In what has been a very difficult tournament to win, the USA Men's U23s took home the trophy at the 2023 RugbyTown 7s in Glendale, Colo. Sunday.
So close in 2022, when they lost to Ramblin' Jesters in the final, the U23s brought back the bulk of that squad to try to go one better.
As, since this is essentially the USA Futures team, you'd think they would, right? However, the RugbyTown 7s is full of professional or semi-professional players, and even some of the not-so-pro teams have been together for a long time. Youthful exuberance and potential are nice, but experience and unity of purpose are pretty good, too.
This time, the experience of playing together last year helped as the USA U23s went 7-0, posting two shutouts, and generally winning by comfortable margins. They were pushed hard twice, both times by NAV Sevens, and held on.
The U23s held off NAV Sevens 17-12 in the final, however, maybe it wasn't quite that close. The U23s ran out to a 17-0 lead before NAV scored twice late. This was a NAV Sevens team with some very experienced players, from the hugely popular Corey Jones to former Eagles Martin Iosefo and Madison Hughes to current Eagles like Naima Fuala'au. But USA U23s Head Coach Colton Cariaga had his side fit and ready.
The opening try came from some solid defense—2023 Rudy Scholz Award-winner Lewis Gray made a textbook tackle of Hughes, rolled away as his teammate Ryan Santos counterrucked, and then picked up the loose ball to race in untouched. Sam Walsh hit the post with the conversion attempt and it was 5-0.
Defensive effort once again produced a turnover for the U23s. NAV forced a pass and the resulting forward pass resulted in a scrum. The U23s attacked and when NAV Sevens were penalized for no tackler release, Gray tapped quickly and fed Noah Brown who passed quickly to GCU standout Tucker Trickey, and he put on a move and was in at the corner.
Walsh put the kick over from the far left side and it was 12-0.
Once again the USA U23 defense was how they made good things happen. After a restart error gave NAV a scrum at midfield, Santos released from the scrum quickly once the ball was out, swarmed over Hughes and forced a knock-on. From there an unlikely kick from Trickey had NAV scrambling. And again hard work on defense and a good counterruck produced a turnover—this time a penalty—and Orrin Bizer tapped quickly and sent it wide to Trickey who dove over.
By halftime the USA U23s were up 17-0 and defensively they never slacked off.
NAV Sevens defended well in the second half even as the USA U23s worked the ball back and forth. But penalties hurt NAV too and eventually they had two players in the sin bin at the same time. Some inexperience saw the U23s fail to take advantage—a couple of passes that should have been given weren't. But the hill was getting steeper and steeper for NAV Sevens.
Eventually the yellow cards were worked off and the U23s found themselves with a yellow card and finally Fuala'au scored on a quick tap, and moments later, with Donovan Law in the sin bin for a no-wrap tackle, NAV was over. NAV passed on the conversion attempt to give them one more shot with two USA U23 players in the sin bin, but they lost the ball forward on the restart, and that was it.
For the USA development programs this was the culmination of an active and fairly successful summer. The USA U23 Men's 7s team won RugbyTown 7s. The USA U18 Boys won the Correndon Summer Tour. The USA U20 Women won their series in Canada. The USA U20 Men swept their World Trophy qualifier series with Canada, and while they only went 1-3 at the Trophy, they achieved one of their key goals by qualifying, and lost two of those games by a total of three points. The USA U23 Women were swept by Canada, but beat Colombia senior women and tied Brazil senior women.
More important perhaps than results is the fact that they played. The U18, U20, and U23 teams played 1,278 minutes of rugby in 15s and 7s, going 15-5-2.
Also from RugbyTown: Ramblin' Jesters defeated Tsunami Barbarians for third. SoCal Griffins to win the Plate, while the US Army took the Armed Forces championships.
|USA U23s for RugbyTown
|1. Orrin Bizer
|2. Jake Broselle
|3. Noah Brown
|4. Will Chevalier
|5. EJ Freeman
|6. Lewis Gray
|7. Kahanu Koi
|8. Donovan Law
|9. Darius Law
|10. Uluamu Niutupuivaha
|11. Ryan Santos
|12. Tucker Trickey
|Grand Canyon University
|13. Sam Walsh
|Cal (class of 2022)
|14. Eric Wills
|USA Men’s U23 Sevens Staff
|Colton Cariaga | Head Coach
|Ben Pinkelman | Assistant Coach
|Lucas Baistrocchi | Strength & Conditioning
|Ethan Pougnet | Analyst
|David Fee | Team Manager
|Lori Seiler | Athletic Trainer