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Big Play Day One at Club 7s

Saturday Aug 15, 2009 in Sevens Club Competitions

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The first day of the USA Rugby Club 7s Championships is done and we know the top eight and the bottom four.

Denver, Chicago Lions, Aspen and Belmont Shore all won their pools. Glendale, Milwaukee, Chicago Griffins and Tempe all will sit Sunday as they were eliminated in the pool quarterfinals.


Photos Dobson Images

There was plenty of excitement during the day. Denver and Life played in a tough one early on, with the Barbarians prevailing 14-10 over Life University.

We wanted to come out and play our game and we did that,” said Denver’s Jacob Humphrey. “I don’t think anyone was concerned about Life. They were a good side. It was the first game, nine o’clock in the morning and everyone’s working the rust off.”

Denver moved on to defeat Tempe 29-7 and then Schuylkill River 24-0 to win their pool. Life was second.

“We have a certain style of play that we know how to do and we try to stick with that,” said Humphrey.

For Denver Teddy Omondi was a huge attacking threat, allowing Dan Murphy and Dewon Reed to force defenses to respect the outside, and then sending Omondi up the middle to score.

Belmont Shore won Pool B, hammering the game but too slow Chicago Griffins, shutting out Old Blue 14-0, and edging a hard-working OMBAC team 17-7.

“We were happy with the wins but there’s a lot of stuff to work on,” said Peter Sio, who was excellent on the day.

Against OMBAC they struggled. OMBAC was 1-1 but played very hard against their SoCal rivals. Every tackle was huge, and Sio and Dallen Stanford were key to the team’s success, with Corey Blair and Iopu Sanonu also important.

“That was our first try with that lineup and it took a while to adjust,” Sio added. “In Southern Cal there wasn’t a lot of competition, but a lot of guys have played a higher level. It was a really physical game. It comes down to who wants it more.”

Pool C was a little more confusing. Chicago Lions looked unstoppable early on, defeating a very substandard-looking SFGG 21-0, and then shutting out Glendale 26-0. They weren’t blazingly fast or superbly big, but with Jeremy Nash being enormously hard to bring down, and the team working together, especially on defense, they were effective.

But at the end of the day it all got confused. SFGG, who had looked bad against Chicago, rebounded in the second half to beat NOVA thanks in large part to a big try from Jone Naqica.

“It was must-win,” said Naqica. “We are a slow-starting team, and the team that plays us at the beginning of the day gets an advantage. We started later to show how we can play. We turned NOVA around from an attacking lineout at our five and we turned it around and scored. That was all heart from the guys.”

Then NOVA upset Chicago 21-19 in a thriller that saw NOVA win on the final try at the end of the match. PJ Komongnan’s try winning the game.

So it came down to SFGG v. Glendale. SFGG needed to win by more than 33. They exploded on the Colorado club. Thretton Palamo was a menace and put together several important attacking runs, which Naqica, Arona Palamo, Danny LaPrevotte and Mile Pulu all had a hand in an amazing 45-0 victory. Out of nowhere, SFGG were in the Cup Round, and NOVA was relegated to the bottom eight.

And in Pool D, Aspen and Atlanta Old White dominated. Old White, with Richard Kanda, Leslie Mango and Luke Waikamakama playing superbly, we speedy and exciting. Aspen was more balanced, but saw Mike Palefau, especially, play well. Football convert Leonard Peters showed he knows how to play rugby, and Jason Pye did well, too.

“We’ve gotten better each game, which is what we wanted,” said Aspen’s Merritt Johnson. “Defense is our main goal, rather than offense.”

Johnson said the team is more than a couple of stars. They have learned to use everyone.

“We’re not about one or two players, we don’t train that way,” Johnson said. “Last year we came into this thing and nobody knew who we were except Mike. And we won the whole thing. Now they have seven guys to worry about instead of three.”

Such as Eric Walton, who burned Milwaukee for three tries showing exciting pace.

So it was all down to Aspen v. Atlanta, and Aspen struck early, sending Peters in to score, and they held firm on their defense, not letting Kenda get going.

“Defense,” echoed Johnson, “wins championships.”

Bowl Quarters
Boston 26. Glendale 14
NOVA 42 Milwaukee 7
Schuylkill River 33 Chicago Griffins12
OMBAC 47 Tempe 0

Cup Quarterfinal matchips (Sunday)
Denver v. Old Blue
SFGG v. Aspen
Chicago Lions v. Atlanta Old White
Belmont Shore v. Life University

- Alex Goff

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