Mid-Atlantic's best ready to rumble at the 37th Monk Vaughan 7s Tournament

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Mid-Atlantic teams will look to better position themselves for a place at the Aug. 12-13 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship during the July 8 Monk Vaughan 7s Tournament hosted by the Richmond Lions. The Saturday of rugby sevens will see one of the most competitive regions, in both men’s and women’s sevens, compete at Dorey Park in Henrico, Va., while honoring Monk Vaughan – a respected man in the greater Virginia rugby community.

Most of the tournament’s fanfare might be drawn to the supreme skills that will on display in the Men’s and Women’s Qualifying brackets, but 51 teams representing five states will be at Dorey Park competing in divisions that include a Men’s Open, Men’s and Women’s Social and a High School Boys tournament. The event has shown tremendous growth over the years, and all signs are pointed to the 37th rendition being the very best.

Coming off of a National Championship victory at last August’s Club 7s Nationals, Scion started its 2017 summer with a win at June 24’s Ruggerama, and most recently took first-place at last weekend’s Cape Fear 7s. Given the National Development Academy’s proficiency over the past year, the Sirens will be the favorites heading into Monk Vaughan 7s.

Regardless of Scion’s recent success, one of the most prestigious women’s sevens programs to date should never be counted out. Northern Virginia Rugby has a long history of excellence, especially in the Olympic format of the sport. NOVA’s sixth appearance at Club 7s Nationals saw the team once again advance to the Cup Quarterfinals, before existing in sixth-place. Following a run to the Division I National Semifinals in 15s, NOVA’s second-place finish behind Scion at Ruggerama indicates the team is primed to make its seventh showing at the National Championship event for Club 7s.

Even if NOVA and Scion meet in the Cup Final Saturday, other results will have meaningful consequences. The Mid-Atlantic Region will produce three women’s teams to the 2017 Club 7s Nationals. Philadelphia Rugby and the D.C. Furies currently sit third and fourth in the standings, respectively. Both teams have what it takes to reach the Final of a qualifying event out of the Mid-Atlantic, but it will be equally important to not slip up against NOVA’s second side or the Norfolk Storm.

The Mid-Atlantic competition on the men’s side has been just as fierce in recent years, and has only become more challenging with the formation of the Beltway Elite. The ‘all-star’-like side formed from players representing various teams in the Mid-Atlantic Conference and Capital Geographic Union opened the summer with a Cup-raising win at Ruggerama, and could be the latest select side to make noise at Nationals.

Still, there’s no guarantee that Beltway Elite will reach Nationals. The Schuylkill River Exiles haven’t missed out on the Club 7s National Championship tournament the past six seasons, and have a Cup Final appearance to their name. The Exiles will no doubt attempt to outdo their second-place finish at Ruggerama with another Monk Vaughan title.

Northern Virginia Rugby ended a two-year druught of Club 7s appearances but winning the Bowl at the 2016 National Championship event. After concluding last year’s weekend at Nationals with three consecutive wins, NOVA will be eager to punch its ticket to Minneapolis and build off of last summer’s results.

There’s also Rocky Gorge and the Washington Irish to be concerned with in the Men’s Qualifying division. Rocky Gorge has been unbeatable in 15s the past couple of seasons in the Mid-Atlantic, and hopes to translate that success to the sevens pitch. The Washington Irish, meanwhile, recently completed a one-loss season in Mid-Atlantic’s Division II competition that has prompted the club’s promotion to Division I for the 2017-18 season.

As much as these high-performing clubs want to see their hard work at training turn into victories on Saturday, there’s more to the tournament than wins and loses. The annual event honors the memory of Monk Vaughan – a standout scrum half for Richmond RFC who has been dearly missed since his life was taken by a drunk driver.

“Monk was a warrior, outstanding business man and friend to the bikers, judges and politicians of our fair city,” describe Phil Kempf of the Richmond Lions. “He was respected by all for his playing ability and was loved by all for his spirit and thirst for living. He was cut down by a drunk driver in his playing prime. This tournament serves to remind us all how lucky we are, and to act responsibly when drinking is involved.”