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In a tremendous matchup, the Utah Selects captured their second consecutive club 7s national championship with an exciting 22-21 victory over rival Denver Barbarians. The Selects scored two tries in the final two minutes, including one at the death to stun the Barbarians.
It is the second consecutive year that the finals ended between two teams from the frontier division. Last year, Utah upended the Kansas City Blues to claim the title. Coming into the final bout, Utah and Denver had played three times over the summer, with Denver capturing two of the three matchups.
Utah powered through pool play, before beating Old Blue and Belmont Shore in route to the finals. Similarly, Denver went perfect in-group play, easily defeated Life West and edged out Washington Athletic to reach the finals.
The final proved to be one of the most hard-hitting, action packed games all weekend. Denver started the game with the ball but both teams traded blows while probing their respective opposition. The game finally opened up after a penalty against Denver deep in opposition territory. The Barbos threw the ball away and the referee pulled out the yellow card, giving a man advantage to Utah.
The Selects took advantage immediately through Joseph Nicholls. After several phases Nicholls was rewarded with great support for a try down the left sideline. The conversion was missed and Utah led 5-0.
Denver got back into the game after getting back to even strength. Kevon Williams, busted through a gap but was taken down by Don Pati just inside the Utah half. A few phases later, Denver once again found a gap and Max de Achaval jumped to catch the offload. Don Pati hit him in the air and the US Eagle was sent off with a yellow card.
The Barbarians took advantage of the man up, probing sideline to sideline until Michael Al-Jiboori found space out wide and marched in under the posts. The Oklahoma product was fantastic all weekend and made a real impact on the game.
The second half started with Utah still down a man and Denver capitalized again. Al-Jiboori snuck through a gap in the center of the field to extend the lead to 14-5.
The Utah side bounced back once Pati came back on the pitch. It took a number of phases and several clever offloads, but Gabe Ruflin snuck in to cut the lead to 14-10.
Denver, however, looked to put a stranglehold on the match when Devrin Young took his first touch and outflanked Utah down the sideline. Pati caught him, but a few phases later de Achaval sent Young into the corner for a 21-10 lead.
It looked like Denver would get its first ever-national title but Utah demonstrated great resiliency to come back. Josh Whippy cut the lead to 21-15 but his brother Jared missed the easy conversion. Jared Whippy’s normal sure-footed leg was off as the BYU product missed three fairly makeable conversions.
Denver fielded the kick off and de Achaval kicked the ball for territory. Pati, however, nimbly beat a number of defenders to put Denver on the back foot. Utah swung the ball right and Joshua Anderson outpaced the defense and scored under the posts with 20 seconds to go. This time, Whippy nailed the conversion to win the game 22-21 at the death.
For Denver, it is the eighth time the team club has finished second at club 7s nationals. For Utah and the team filled with BYU and Utah talents, it has once again proven that Utah is a hotbed of rugby.