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Mystic River repeated as the Hellgate 7s champions this weekend and in the process chipped into Old Blue’s lead in the Northeast Sevens Championship Series. With one tournament to play, Old Blue still leads the series but Mystic River and NYAC are both within striking distance.
The top four once again took care of business in pool play, setting up a pair of familiar semi final matchups. Mystic River won one pool and the Ct. Bulldogs won the other, leading to Mystic River versus Old Blue and NYAC versus the Bulldogs.
NYAC took care of the Bulldogs and Mystic River finally got the better of its New York rivals. After losing to Old Blue in the cup final in the first go around, and getting bested in the semifinals of the last tournament, the Monsters of Malden (as they refer to themselves) edged Old Blue. The first two meetings were close affairs and this one was no different as Mystic won 14-12.
“The match with Old Blue was typical Mystic River-Old Blue,” said Mystic River coach Josh Smith. “The thing was nip and tuck with a two point final where it could have went either way. They had possession the last minute and a half and were beating down our door.”
The Mystics defense held firm on the late barrage from Old Blue and had a much easier go of it in the final against NYAC. After beating the Athletic Club 35-12 in pool play, Mystic River continued the defensive prowess with a 19-0 blanking in the final.
It was a rough start for the Mystics, however, as starting scrumhalf Ian Luciano went down with an injury on the opening kickoff. The New England College product, along with his teammate Isaiah Lopez, has fit in seamlessly to the squad. However, it was Nick Fujiwara, who had played very few minutes all tournament, that stepped into fill the void with a solid 20 minute performance.
“Fuji went from playing basically no minutes the whole tournament to playing 20 minutes in the final and leading the team in tackles. It was great to get a boost off the bench like that,” said Smith.
Mystic River scored two first half tries and took a 12-0 lead into the break. However, a yellow card to Alatasi Tupou late in the first half put Mystic on the defensive. The Mass side weathered the yellow card, though, and added one more score to seal the match.
“This was a massive week for us. We needed a good response. Seeing NYAC in the finals it was almost and all or nothing game for both of us,” Smith exclaimed.
Old Blue hammered the Bulldogs in the third place game and remains atop the table with 61 points. The table got a lot closer, however, with Mystic winning and NYAC taking another second place finish. With the victory, Mystic has now finished 2nd, 3rd and 1st in the respective tournaments totaling 58 points in the series. NYAC has a pair of 2nd place finishes and a 4th place finish. The lack of a tournament victory has hampered the Athletic Club and the fourth place blemish early on may cost it a trip to nationals.
“From week to week we are going to see the same four teams in the semifinals and basically that 4th match of the day is the big one….There is still a lot at stake. This week was big for us to get us in a good position for this last tournament. We are pretty happy with it,” concluded Smith.
With one tournament to play, all three teams have a realistic chance of earning one of the two qualifier berths from the region. The final tournament takes place next weekend with the Saratoga 7s.