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Mystic River defeated the Connecticut Bulldogs 31-26 to take the second leg of the Northeast 7s Series. With the tournament victory, the Mystics moved into first place in the summer standings. Mystic River coach Josh Smith indicated that it wasn’t pretty at times, but the squad was able to pull out five wins on an undefeated afternoon. “It was a tough day. We didn’t play our best but we were good enough to win a bunch of matches.”
The Mystics took care of business in pool play, defeating both their own B-side as well as the Old Blue B-side. The Mystics capped off pool play with a 31-19 victory over the Bulldogs. Finishing second in pool play, Connecticut matched up with Old Blue in the semifinals. The Bulldogs overcame a 19 point deficit to stun last years national runner up and head to the final. “The Bulldogs showed massive improvement from last week. They were much more physical, much tougher. I was so impressed with the gains they have made in the last week,” Smith stated.
Across the bracket, Mystic River edged NYAC 19-14 behind a couple of tries from Jared Collinson and one from Evin O’Driscoll. Smith praised the play of O’Driscoll, who stepped up in the abscense of flyhalf Pono Haitsuka. The Mystics jumped out to an early lead in the final, scoring two tries in the first minute. Collinson dotted down first and Alatasi Tupou doubled the lead to 10-0. The Mystics made some tactical adjusments coming into the match and they immediately paid dividens according to Smith. “We struggled a little bit on the day with our tackeling so we decided for the final that we were going to put some pressure on the restarts,” said Smith. “Going out of the gate the first two possssions Sean Rafferty with a huge turnover, through the hands, 10-0, and on the front foot.” John Kokinda increased the lead to 17-0 towards the end of the first half and it looked as if Mystic River would cruise to victory. However, the Bulldogs turned possession inside their own 20 meter line into a score right before the break with a well executed chip and chase to make it 17-7 at halftime.
It was all Connecticut at the start of the second half, as the Bulldogs added another 80 meter score to cut the lead to 17-14. The Bulldogs won possession again and swung the ball wide to take a 19-17 lead. For the second consecutive game, Connecticut had come back from a three score deficit to take the lead. “Credit to the Bulldogs, they are a feast or famine team. When they have possession, one way or another they are going to get you,” Smith added. “In the two matches against us they scored three or four tries over 70 meters.”
Unlike the Old Blue match, however, Connecticut could not withstain the momentum. Mystic River made several substitutions that immediately altered the trajectory of the match. Marcus Satavu and Vini Daley infused some energy into the Mystic side after coming off the bench. “Satavu gave us some massive minutes off the bench. He scored a huge try against the Bulldogs in pool play and a huge defensive effort in the final,” added Smith. After the substitution, Daly steamrolled his opposite number creating space for Tupou to notch his second score of the game. Moments later, Collinson earned his second of the match great work from Kokinda at the breakdown. With little time left, the Mystics led 31-19. The Bulldogs responded with a try at the death but it was all consolation as Mystic River took home the Hellgate 7’s hardware.
With the win and Old Blue third place finish, Mystic River leap frogged into the top position in the summer standings. With two tournaments to play, Mystic River, Old Blue and the Connecticut Bulldogs are all in contention to earn the two spots at Nationals.