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The Northeast Sevens Championship opens play this weekend in Newport, R.I. The Northeast teams will begin their first of four tournaments in their quest to head to USA Rugby Nationals in Des Moines, Iowa.
Old Blue looks to return to the national spotlight as the New York side narrowly lost to the Seattle Saracens 31-26 in the 2014 final. Old Blue has long been the standard bearer for 7s rugby and looks to continue that success in 2015. The side has been a mainstay at club nationals for the last decade finishing as runners up in 2005, 2006, 2014 and fourth and third in two prior respective seasons.
“We are always competive and always motivated to win it,” said Old Blue coach Steve Lewis.
OB returns eight players from last years roster and will be joined by an influx of collegiate talent. Arkansas State’s Harry Higgins and Dylan Carrion along with a trio of AIC players are in New York for the summer. Gavin D’Amore-Morrison, Christian Adams and John Corpuz Jackson bring a bevy of speed and athleticism to and already potent Old Blue team. Shane Dempsey of Arizona returns for his second stint with the club while Oklahoma standout Michael Al-Jiboori makes his first foray to the big apple. Ryan Blythe of West Virginia and Paris Hollis of Life round out the Collegiate All-Americans suiting up.
“It is quite a good catch of collegiate players,” Lewis added.
The youth will be thrown into the fire quickly as a number of Old Blue regulars will be out of commission this weekend. Nate Augspurger is currently training with the Eagles for the Pan AM games and Luke Hume has not quite recovered from a serious ankle injury from the fall. The squad will also be without mainstay Marcus Henderson for the weekend.
Giving Old Blue a run for its money will be cross town rivals NYAC, Mystic River and the Connecticut Bulldogs. “With all due respect to the other teams, I see it as a four team race,” Lewis added.
The Athletic Club earned the second ticket to nationals last year and ultimately too was knocked out by Seattle. The Athletic Club is coming off a 15s national title and will be looking to take that momentum into the weekend.
It is the first 7s season for the newly combined Mystic River. Making up the former Mystic River and Middlesex club’s, the Barbarians are coming off a solid 15 season where they took NYAC to the bring in the DI semi-finals. Adding to the excitement, the Barbarians announced that HSBC World Series Samoan scrumhalf, Alatasi Tupou, has joined the squad for the summer. Mystic River demonstrated its depth and readiness last week at the Worcester 7s, finishing first and second in their final tune up.
It should be quite a heavy hitting summer in the Northeast with a deep and talented field.
“I think 7s in the Northeast has improved by leaps and bounds the last couple of years.,” said Lewis. “I think its going to take another quantum leap this summer. I think we are one of the most competitive divisions. It’s kind of like an arms race every year. Everyone takes it more seriously and everyone is getting better at it.”