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Old Blue defeated Mystic River 22-19 to win the Newport 7s and take the first leg of the Northeast Summer Series. The New York side avenged a 22-10 pool play loss to the Mystics in order to capture the maximum number of points this weekend.
Both Mystic River and Old Blue were 2-0 prior to playing each other in the final game of pool play. Mystic River ground out a pool victory and earned the first seed going into the Cup semis.
“They are much improved,” Old Blue coach Stephen Lewis said of Mystic River. “They are very deep and it was just a tremendous tussle… There are some new players on both sides and it was just a matter of feeling each other out.”
In the other side of the bracket, NYAC finished on top and the Connecticut Bulldogs finished 2nd, setting up a battle of local rivals for the semi-finals. Old Blue won the battle of New York teams 24-10 while Mystic River outlasted the Bulldogs 22-7 to set up a rematch in the Cup Finals.
“This was kind of a rematch on the day and a chance for us to set the record straight,” Lewis added.
Old Blue got on the board first through Connor Wallace-Sims in the final but a pair of tries from Chris Frazier and Sean Rafferty gave the Mystics a 14-5 lead at halftime. The Mystics worked the ball sideline to sideline on the first try and powered through with a real forwards try for the second score.
The New York squad struck back, however, scoring the first three tries of the second half to take a 22-14 lead. Harry Higgins found a seem in the defense to score in the corner, and with three minutes to play Wallace-Sims beat two defenders to score to take the lead 17-14. In similar fashion, Michael Al-Jiboori sprinted through the Mystic defense and was able to dot down while being tackled to extend the lead to 22-14.
Wallace-Sims is 19 years old and a current member of the USA under-20 squad. He had a breakout tournament scoring eight tries on the day. Al-Jiboori broke his way into the A-side this week as a substitute and Lewis indicated that he was impressed with the former University of Oklahoma standout.
“He got better with every game,” Lewis said Al-Jiboori. “His stock is certainly rising in my estimation.”
Mystic River stormed back, however, after a yellow card to Old Blue for foul away from the ball. Old Blue appeared to be heading in for the knock out punch, but an infraction on the score voided the fourth try of the half and turned the mometum back in favor of Mystic.
For the last minute, Mystic River pressured in Old Blue territory. Mystic River had possession inside the Old Blue 5-meter line trailing by three and no time remaining. The Mystics tried to power over the line but the referee ruled that the player was held up. The final whistle blew and Old Blue snuck away with the victory.
The Northeast did not dissapoint in its first tournament of the year. With two spots at nationals at stake, the next three tournaments should bring some tremendous excitement.
“It was certainly a level up and that was the first final of the year. It is only going to get better,” stated Lewis.