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The emergence of rugby 7s as an Olympic sport has raised the interest in the sport among U19 players.

This summer has seen an increase in the number of U19 teams playing in 7s tournaments, and even playing in tournaments of their own. At the Tacoma 7s, host of the Pacific Coast 7s senior club Championships this weekend, fans also saw the final of the Washington State Games rugby tournament, with Seattle-area team Liberty defeating Bellingham-based Chuckanut 24-12 in the final.

Chuckanut played a good team game and arrived with a large squad, but Liberty was simply more athletic. Leading the was playmaker and kicker Simione Ratukalou, speed demon Chandler Jenkins, and bruising inside runner Alex Kaser.

Jenkins is a talent, but may be lost to rugby for a few years as he is off to play DI football. Kaser, however, has taken the opposite route. He converted from football to rugby in his senior year at Liberty High School, and will be off to Washington State University this fall … to play rugby, not football.

“They’re a good bunch of kids,” said Liberty coach Jeff Candler. “They’re still learning 7s, but we’ve got some good athletes.”

Also impressive was Yakima, a relatively new program that improved throughout the day.