Fourteen more teams officially earn bids to Club 7s Nationals

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Fourteen more teams have officially qualified for the Aug. 12-13 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship following the results from the Saturday, July 22, regional qualification tournaments.

After winning each of the region’s first three qualifying events, Belmont Shore’s sheer appearance at the Pacific South’s fourth and final tournament – Santa Monica 7s – qualified the boys from Long Beach, Calif., to yet another Club 7s National Championship. The big question in Southern California entering the weekend was who would join Belmont Shore in Minneapolis next month – Old Mission Beach Athletic Club or the Santa Monica Dolphins?

The Dolphins got the better of OMBAC during their head-to-head matchup in pool play, but the determining factor for moving on to Nationals would be which team could survive the knockout stages the longest. Santa Monica did its part by advancing to its third consecutive Pacific South Final, but OMBAC was not able to earn a rematch against the Dolphins. Instead, Belmont Shore eliminated OMBAC from National Championship contention by besting the side in the Semifinals, and helping Santa Monica punch its ticket to Nationals.

Despite being unable to take control of Belmont Shore’s grasp on the Pacific South’s No. 1 seed to Nationals, the Dolphins entertained their home fans with a win over Belmont Shore in the Final of Santa Monica to conclude the day on a high note.

The Southern Region’s sevens competition culminated at the Southern 7s Championship in Atlanta, where two men’s and women’s teams advanced to the Final, thus booking places at the 2017 Club 7s National Championship.

After going undefeated in pool play, Orlando Rugby lined up against fellow 2016 Southern representative at Nationals Phoenix Rugby in the Semifinals with a spot at this year’s National Championship tournament on the line. Orlando’s second shutout of the day ended Phoenix’s summer and pushed the team into the Final, where it met Atlanta Harlequins to battle for seeding at Nationals.

Orlando’s defense once again came to play in the Final, holding the Harlequins without a point while running in four tries of its own. Both teams will be in Minneapolis for Nationals, but Orlando’s 20-0 victory over Atlanta prevents the club from Central Florida from being placed in the same Championship pool as 2014 Club 7s National Champions San Diego Surfers and 2015 Cup winner American Rugby Pro Training Center.

Charlotte Rugby and Optimus Rugby will be joining Atlanta and Orlando at Nationals. Charlotte arrived in Atlanta for the Southern 7s Championship as the No. 1 team out of the Carolinas Division, while Optimus tied Legion of Doom for top spot in Georgia. The two National Championship-bound teams did not disappoint at the regional championship, both navigating to the Finals.

Charlotte, which missed out on Championship qualification last year, had more gas left in the tank than its counterpart, and powered past Optimus, 26-5. Despite the 21-point loss in the Southern 7s Final, Optimus will make its first Club 7s National Championship appearance in less than three weeks’ time.

The Mid-Atlantic wrapped its series of sevens tournaments in Philadelphia by rewarding five total bids to Nationals. The Saturday of sevens in Philly was not as suspenseful as some other regions, because the National Championship representatives had already built a large enough lead in the Mid-Atlantic that their participation alone put them in the 32-team field in Minneapolis.

One team that could not afford an upset in the women’s tournament was Philadelphia Rugby. After three straight third-place finishes leading up to Philadelphia 7s, the local squad was still in the D.C. Furies’ striking distance, and needed a solid performance over the weekend to maintain the Mid-Atlantic’s third women’s seed to Nationals. Philadelphia was not able to reach its first regional Final of the summer, but another third-place finish was enough to grant the squad its sixth Club 7s National Championship appearance in seven years after failing to qualify last summer.

The Scion Sirens will be the Mid-Atlantic’s No. 1 seed when they head to Minneapolis with plans to defend their 2016 Club 7s title. The team took first place in Philadelphia, making it four-for-four in regional qualifying events. Northern Virginia Rugby, which has reached the Cup Quarterfinals at Nationals in each of the past six summers, will be the Mid-Atlantic’s No. 2 seed. NOVA was not able to outduel Scion in any of this summer’s regional events, but is still heading to Nationals in top form.

Just so long as the bus did not break down on the way to the pitch in Philadelphia, the Beltway Elite and Schuylkill River Exiles were going to claim the Mid-Atlantic’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds to the Club 7s National Championship. Beltway finished the summer the way it kicked off the series – with a first-place finish. However, it was not Schuylkill River it faced in the Finals. Instead, the Norfolk Blues had their best tournament of the summer, and beat Northern Virginia to reach the first-place match, eventually going down to the region’s new sevens select side.

Red River’s three-headed battle for the region’s two spots in the men’s National Championship bracket came to a boiling point this past weekend in Fort Worth, Texas. The Austin Blacks, Austin Huns, and Dallas Reds entered the fourth and final qualifying event in the Red River tied for first after each having won one of the previous three tournaments.

Following a 2-1 record in pool play, which included a 21-12 victory over the Blacks, the Huns matched up against their crosstown rival again in the Semifinals with a place at the National Championship event on the line. The Huns again held the Blacks to 12 points, while notching 26 of their own to qualify for a second consecutive Club 7s National Championship a year after reaching their first ever championship event in sevens.

Dallas’ superior point differential after pool play lent the easier draw in the Semifinals against Lonestar. The Reds proved too strong for Lonestar in a 26-12 win that solidified the team as a National Championship representative, and established a Final fixture with seedings on the line against the Austin Huns.

Dallas, which ended a seven-year drought of not qualifying for Nationals in 2015, will be back at the Club 7s National Championship as Red River’s No. 1 seed thanks to a 35-21 win over the Huns in the Finals. Austin, on the other hand, will have an opportunity to win 2017 National Championships in two codes as Red River’s No. 2 seed.

It was always known that either the Denver Barbarians, Kansas City Blues, or Rugby Utah Selects would be left out of the National Championship bill. Whichever team was to finish third in the Frontier Region was going to be bitterly disappointed, too, based on their sevens résumés. Rugby Utah is the reigning champion, but did not raise the 2016 Cup until beating out a Frontier rival in the Final – Kansas City. Denver narrowly missed the National Championship tournament last year, finishing third in the Frontier series, but has been National Runner-up on seven occasions, the most recent Cup Final appearance coming in 2015.

First-place finishes at both Denver 7s and Heartland 7s made Saturday’s tournament in Lincoln, Neb., less dramatic for Rugby Utah. The Selects were already awarded the region’s No. 1 seed to Nationals, leaving Denver and Kansas City on pins and needles as they skirmished for Frontier’s second seed.

In the first S
emifinal of the last tournament in Frontier’s three-event series, the Barbarians hammered a solid Omaha Goats side, 41-7. The pressure now shifted to the Blues, who found themselves in a must-win scenario against Rugby Utah. As Kansas City had done in each of its previous three matches against the Selects from Utah this summer, the club lost to the 2016 National Champions by less than a try.

Not satisfied with merely taking ownership of a spot in Nationals, Denver got revenge on a Utah side that had knocked it out of contention in both Denver and Kansas City earlier this summer, and beat the Selects in the Final, 31-19.

A full list of the men’s teams that have qualified for the 2017 Club 7s National Championships can be found here, and the 12 women’s teams that have already earned a spot at Nationals can be seen here.