Rugby Utah storms back to defeat Barbarians, win second straight Club 7s title

BLAINE, Minn. – The Rugby Utah Selects’ 22-21 come from behind win in the Cup Finals earned the squad its second consecutive USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship, while ending the Denver Barbarians’ sevens season in heartbreaking fashion.

The Barbarians put themselves in a hole when Landon Peterson was sent to the sin bin, and the Selects took advantage by connecting a few accurate offloads that sent Joseph Nicholls into the try zone for the game’s first points.

Soon both teams would have to rely on just six players, though. A pass too high for Maximo de Achaval’s reach forced Denver’s leader into the air to make the catch, and Eagle Sevens athlete Don Pati hit de Achaval before he returned to the ground. The offense put Pati on the bench for two minutes, and Michael Al-Jiboori made Utah pay, as he backed himself on the way to a converted try.

Leading 7-5, Denver would go into halftime with the lead and return from the short break to add another try thanks to a crisp, straight line by Al-Jiboori for the former University of Oklahoma All-American’s second score.

Rugby Utah crucially kept Denver close. Pati, now back on the pitch, sent a touch-pass into Nicholls’ arms, who got an offload off to Gabe Ruflin. The University of Utah man dove into the try zone, but the conversion was off again, bringing the score to 14-10 in favor of Denver.

Determined to win its first Club 7s National Championship in the team’s eighth Cup Final appearance, Barbarian Devrin Young showed off his pace by burning Utah around the corner and deep into the opposition’s end. Young kept the ball inbounds before being dragged into touch, and a phase later de Achaval pinned his man and got a pass of to Young, who darted in for a try to extend the Barbarians’ lead to 21-10.

Just when it appeared Denver was going to win its first Club 7s title in its 23rd tournament appearance, Utah raced back with vengeance. Another sleek set of offloads by the Selects put Jared Whippy into pay dirt to close the gap, 21-15. In what would be the match’s final play, Utah got its hands on the ball and moved it to Joshua Anderson who used his long strides to split through the heart of the defense for a try under the posts. Whippy’s easy conversion attempt didn’t go astray, and Utah hoisted the Emil Signes Cup.

After falling in Semifinal fixtures, a loaded Washington Athletic Club proved too strong for Belmont Shore, beating the Long Beach, Calif. club 38-21 in the Bronze Medal match. Additional hardware was raised by Dallas Rugby and Old Blue. Despite its loss, Metropolis brought its hometown fans to a roar when it came up just short against the Dallas Reds in the Bowl Final, while Old Blue went back to New York with the Club 7s Plate thanks to a five-point victory over fellow Northeast squad Bulldog Rugby.