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The SoCal 7s Series continues in Los Angeles this weekend with the Sun Splash 7s tournament. With two tournaments left to play, four teams have a realistic chance of garnering the two spots to Nationals.
Belmont Shore is atop the group with a first- and second-place finish, but OMBAC sits a mere four points back of the top spot. Santa Monica and Arizona are tied in third place and currently three points behind the coveted second spot.
The Arizona Academy has finished third in both tournaments thus far and is looking to get over the hump in the third installment. Arizona lost to Belmont Shore in the semifinals of both tournaments so far and are hoping to finally make that jump into the final match.
“We are cofident that we are the second best team in Socal,” Arizona Academy’s Ryan Thomspon told Rugby Today several weeks ago.
The team will have to do so without Brett Thompson for the second consecutive tournament, as the Arizona standout is off training with the 15s national team ahead of the Pacific Nations Cup.
The boys from the desert rely heavily on a large contingent of Tempe athletes, including Thompson and a trio of brothers. The Taefu brothers all provide a jolt to the Arizona team. The youngest of the three, Austin, is 18 years old and played with the High School All Americans. The youngster has been thrown into the fire at scrumhalf.
The big No. 8 from Red Mountain, Rick Darrow, brings some experience to the 7s squad. He has been training with Tempe for the last several summers providing some familiarity and continuity to the team.
The Arizona Rugby Union has done well to bring in some new faces and provide some financial stability for the Academy. “We have had good numbers at practice. We have had 40-something guys at practice. There is a lot of competition for spots,” Thompson added.
Arizona will need to make its move this week if it hopes to stay in the race while Belmont Shore is hoping to put a stranglehold on the series. Shore, however, will have to do it without Mike Te’o, who is away with the Eagles at the Pan-Am Games.
OMBAC has all the momentum going into week three, and Santa Monica is coming off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the last tournament. The bottom line is, this is a four-team race, and with two tournaments to go there is everything is still up for grabs.