Article by Alex Solmon | Originally published at usarugby.org
LAFAYETTE, Colo. - Teams like Belmont Shore, Chicago Lions, and the men and women of Old Blue won consecutive qualifying events for the 2016 USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships - to be held at Dick's Sporting Goods Park - while regions like the Frontier, Mid-Atlantic, Pacific North, and Red River got its sevens competitions underway over the weekend.
Newport 7s - Newport, RI
Old Blue of New York is in quality form and it is not yet July. The team won its second consecutive qualifying event, and did so in style. After navigating to a 3-0 pool play record, Old Blue dispatched Mystic River in the Semifinal to pit itself against New York Athletic Club in the Final. NYAC was no match for Old Blue, however, and the 2014 national runner-up downed its rival, 33-5.
In the match to determine third place, Mystic River bounced back to defeat Bulldog Rugby of Connecticut.
In women's action, it was Boston Rugby that outlasted the rest of the field for a Newport 7s win. After a 15s season that saw Boston onto the National Quarterfinals, the Atlantic North side hopes to make a second consecutive appearance at Nationals after competing in Club Championships for the first time in 2015.
In other women's action, the women of Old Blue won another tournament with its first-place finish at Tri-State 7s. After a pair of Old Blue teams finished first and second at Monmouth 7s, the team again finished in the top two spots this weekend.
At Flower 7s, Uticuse Hellbenders went undefeated on their way to a tournament victory.
Next event: July 9 Buffalo 7s - Buffalo, NY | Hell Gate 7s - New York, NY | Springfield 7s - Springfield, MA
Denver 7s - Commerce City, CO
Rugby Utah's National Development Academy squad won the Frontier Region's opening event - Denver 7s. The Utah select side breezed through pool play before a Cup Quarterfinal win over Southern Utah and a Semifinal victory against Denver Barbarians. In the Final, it doubled-up the Kansas City Blues, 24-12, engraving the team's name on the Sneath Cup - a trophy containing the names of the winners of each men's premier bracket since 1968. For individual recognition, it was
BYU standout Calvin Whiting who earned the tournament's Most Valuable Player award.
The Barbarians, winners of the previous four Denver 7s, could not continue their dominance at Dick's Sporting Good Park and finished third. Denver missed some punch in its lineup with players like Michael Al-Jiboori, Logan Collins, Maximo de Achaval, and Ata Malifa suiting up for PRO Rugby's Denver Stampede in their win over Sacramento. Additionally, Ben Pinkelman, who caught the attention of the Men's Eagles coaching staff while playing sevens with the Barbarians, missed Denver 7s as he continues to compete for a spot on the Olympic team.
Next event: July 9 Heartland 7s - Kansas City, MO
Blue Ball 7s - Wilmington, DE
Scion Rugby Academy won the women's premier division at Blue Balls 7s, while Northern Virginia Rugby took first place in the men's tournament.
Scion averaged 33 points per match in three pool victories, then got past the women of NOVA by just seven points. The Final was a rematch from pool play against Philadelphia Rugby. After a 13-point victory earlier in the day, Scion outscored Philadelphia, 24-14, to take the Blue Balls title.
NOVA, a team that has not reached Nationals since 2013, upset Schuylkill River in the men's Final to claim its trophy. NOVA's defense was especially strong in the morning, only allowing five points after its first two matches. A win against Washington Rugby put NOVA in the Final, but it was Schuylkill River's 24-5 win over Rocky Gorge in its Semifinal that was most impressive. Still, NOVA proved its 4-0 start to the day was no fluke, and upended Schuylkill River, 19-15.
Next event: July 9 Battlefield 7s - Leesburg, VA
Minnesota 7s - Eagan, MN
The Chicago Lions backed up their first place finish at Madtown Rugby 7s with a Cup Final win at Minnesota 7s. After four games, the Lions had not allowed a single point. Their utter dominance on defense placed the team in the Final against the Milwaukee Barbarians. Chicago finally bent on defense, giving up two tries to its conference rival, but did enough on attack to secure the 27-14 victory.
After Semifinal losses, it was the Chicago Blaze who rebounded well to down the St. Paul Pigs, 45-0, in the third-place game.
Next event: July 9 Rock n' Roll 7s - Cleveland, OH
Sacramento 7s - Sacramento, CA
The first Northern California qualifier did get into knockout stages, leaving Life West and Olympic Club to finish first and second, respectively, following pool play. Both teams went undefeated, but the Gladiators garnered first-place series points with its +81 point differential, besting O-Club's +79 point differential.
Next event: July 9 Silicon Valley 7s - Mountain View, CA
San Clemente, CA
Belmont Shore is off to a terrific start to its summer. Following a win at OMBAC 7s, the three-time National Champion took first place at Beach City 7s. The boys from Long Beach were not tested until the Cup Quarterfinals, when Pasadena Rugby pressed Belmont Shore to a final score of 19-17.
Surprisingly, Belmont had an easier time in the Semifinals, where it defeated Santa Monica, 24-5. That outcome, however, was not the biggest shocker of the afternoon. The Orange Country Ravens had no problem reaching the Semifinal, where an upset ensued in their 21-17 win over Old Mission Beach Athletic Club.
The Ravens' unexpected run ended in the Final, as Belmont Shore got the better of the Division III side, 26-14.
Next event: July 16 Sunsplash 7s - Long Beach, CA
Sweat 7s - Little Rock, AR
The Austin Huns sent a warning shot to the rest of the Red River by winning Bloodfest 7s two weeks ago. For anyone who did not hear the warning, they know now the Huns are for real after capturing the region's first qualifying tournament - Sweet 7s.
Austin kept the Dallas Reds off of the scoreboard in the Cup Semifinals before getting in a dogfight with Little Rock. When the dust settled in the Final, it was the Huns that were victorious, 22-17.
Reigning National Champion on the women's side, American Rugby Pro Training Center, got off to the start it was hoping for with a Sweat 7s win. The National Development Academy side was unstoppable in pool play, outscoring its foes 79-5. ARTPC's dominance continued in the knockout rounds, beating the Oklahoma Roses, 35-14, in the Semifinals and Austin Valkyries, 43-0, in the final women's contest of the day.
Next event: July 9 Cowtown 7s - Fort Worth, TX
Queen City 7s - Charlotte, NC
The men of Charlotte Rugby won the qualifying tournament at Queen City 7s, while the women had to settle for second place after falling to the Hustlers in the Cup Final, 14-5.
Charlotte Men's Rugby had no problem scoring points on the day, all the while its defense was incredibly stout. In five games, Charlotte allowed no more than five points, including the Final that saw last year's South representative at Nationals defeat the Raleigh Vipers, 43-5.
In the women's bracket, Charlotte shut out three of its first four opponents. The one team that managed to tick the scoreboard against the Carolina Champions in 15s was the Hustlers. Still, Charlotte was able to get past them in pool play, but were not so lucky in the final.
Todd Miller 7s - Clermont, FL
Orlando Rugby's women's side did not drop a match on its way to a tournament victory at Fiji 7s, and were once again unscathed throughout Todd Miller 7s. By outscoring three different opponents in four games by a score of 192-0, Orlando not only looks like a side ready to return to Nationals after making its first appearance in 2015, but very capable of improving on its 15th-place finish in Iowa last August.
Miami Rugby proved it could win a tournament it hosted at Fiji 7s, but proved to be just as strong on the road by taking home the Cup from the men's premier division at the Todd Miller event. Miami refused to give up a point until its 26-7 win over Brevard. In the Final, Orlando hoped to follow the boots of its female counterparts with a win in the Final, but it was not meant to be. The home team had no answer for Miami's supremacy and dropped the Final, 45-5.
Vulcan 7s - Birmingham, AL
After not competing at NOLA 7s, Atlanta Old White's presence at Vulcan 7s made it very difficult on the rest of the field. Early wins included a 47-point blanking of Knoxville and doubling-up its crosstown rivals Atlanta Renegades, 28-14.
Oklahoma Elite, which was defeated by Old White in pool play, awaited Atlanta in the Cup Final. The select side out of Norman, Okla., gave Old White its best game, but experience prevailed as Atlanta turned back Oklahoma Elite, 26-17.
Next events: July 9 Carolinas 7s Championship - Site TBD | Invasion 7s - Lakewood Ranch, FL | Hotlanta 7s - Atlanta, GA