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The Austin Blacks have clinched the lone Red River berth at Nationals by winning the second Red River qualifier in Tulsa, Okla. Saturday. With two Cup victories in as many qualifiers, the Blacks have wrapped up the region with a tournament still to play.
The pools, which were based on seeding from the first qualifier, were altered from the original groups provided in last week’s preview. Instead of 1,4,5 and 8 meeting in pool play, the region elected to have 1,3,6 and 8 in one group and 2,4,5 and 7 as the group breakdown.
Both the Blacks and Bonobos won their first two pool play matches setting up a final pool play game that only determined seeding for the semifinals. Bonobos defeated the Blacks 20-10, starving Austin of possession while playing a superb all-around game. The other pool saw two Dallas teams take the top two spots. The Reds won the group, and the Harlequins advanced as the second seed.
In the Cup Semifinals, both pool winners lost. The Harlequins defeated Bonobos, and the Blacks shut out the Reds 29-0. The Blacks went on to defeat the Harlequins 24-10 in the final and earned six points for the weekend.
Blacks Captain Tane Jericevich was very pleased with his team’s performance. “We played really well as a team. Everyone was on the same page and working hard for each other. It is crucial to have this in 7s. Everyone had a high work rate and was playing for something greater than themselves,” he said.
Several players have had a tremendous qualifier series for the Blacks and have contributed to their tournament success. Levi Kereti, nicknamed the 'Bowling Ball', and Matt Redzedovich add speed and strength to the team. Ricky Darrow, who played in his first tournament this weekend, gives the Blacks some balance in attack as an athletic forward. With the victory, the Blacks have clinched the Red River Region.
Due to logistics and cost, the Texas Rugby Union may elect to forgo the final qualifier in two weeks. If the union decides to go that route, the Blacks will have a significant break from competitive action. “With the way it has played out, we will be organizing several scrimmages against some local teams,” said Jericevich. “In-house scrimmages will work well because we have 14 guys playing at a high level.”
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