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Denver's Jeremy Misailegalu slips past KC's Gannon Moore. Travis Prior photo

The Denver Barbarians started their summer campaign by winning the Michael Sneath Memorial Cup at the 48th annual Denver 7s tournament Saturday. They defeated the Kansas City Blues, 38-19, in the final. In the Frontier Conference’s first qualifier, both clubs were undefeated entering the Cup Final, but the Barbarians scored six tries in the championship to secure the victory. The next qualifier is the Heartland 7s, which will be hosted by the Blues on July 11th in Kansas City, Mo.

Two four-team pools were set up with the Denver Barbarians A, Glendale Raptors, Black Dragon New Mexico, and Kansas City Blues B in one group and Kansas City Blues A, Omaha Goats, US Air Force Selects, and Denver Barbarians B in the other. The top seeds showed more polish as warm-up tournaments had prepared them for the qualifier. The “A” sides for Denver and Kansas City each went undefeated in pool play with Glendale and Omaha close behind with one loss.

Both semifinal games were one-sided affairs with Denver blanking Omaha 34-0 and Kansas City shutting out Glendale 24-0. The advancing team each dominated the breakdown and kept up the relentless defensive pressure. In the consolation final, Omaha upset Glendale to win a close match, 28-19.

In the Cup Final, the Barbarians owned the restarts and controlled possession keeping the Blues on the back foot. “In the first half, we were pretty clinical,” Denver 7s team manager Tyson Meek said. “We were up 28-5 at halftime and their one try was from a nice individual play off a kickoff, but they did not have a lot of possession. We did a good job holding onto a lot of possession and when they had the ball, our defensive structure was pretty good.”

“In the second half, they started off pretty strong and scored a quick try. We got a card and they closed the gap even more at 28-19. It was a bit more of a game at that point. Our fitness showed through then and when they closed the gap, our defensive intensity picked up and we were able to finish the game with two more tries.”

Eagle Martin Iosefo had the first two tries for Denver with Logan Collins and Bobby Impson adding scores in the first half. Kevin Schwartze had the Blues’ lone try in the first half and Kenny Scott and Ed Mills scored early in the second period for a strong start for Kansas City. Once the Barbarians were back at full strength after a card, tournament MVP Jeremy Misailegalu and Celester Asuega closed the door on Kansas City with tries to finish the game.

Meek credits the tournament success to exemplary individual play by several of his players. Ben Haapapuro was a consistent performer in every game and Maximo de Achaval had a solid kicking day, including going four-for-six on conversions in the final. Bobby Impson played well at scrumhalf, and on defense Martin Iosefo played like an Eagle. Misailegalu earned the MVP starting every game at hooker and playing a ton of minutes. He showed his versatility switching to wing in the final and his tenacity and work rate were impressive.

Gracious in defeat, Kansas City head coach Scott Kram said, “It was a good competition against one of the best teams in the nation. So it kind of showed you where we’re at and what we need to do over the next month to get more competitive with them and hopefully upset them. Aside from that, judging by all our games this weekend, we’re pretty tough. The overall competition in our geographic union has increased quite a bit over last year.

“Everybody has played solid, but there’s room to grow. We have a good handful of new players on our qualifier squad that will be huge impact players and we just have to get used to playing with each other...[With the next qualifier] being at our home and those guys on the road gives us a bit of an advantage. It’s two weeks to go back and review game film and fix the mistakes we are making and see how we do.”

With four strong teams and only two spots to go to Nationals, Meek knows that the competition in the next two qualifiers will be fierce. “There are two bids from our region to go to Nationals and getting that first win is always important. You need to win two of the three to guarantee your way into Nationals so getting that first win is important for your confidence going into qualifiers... Kansas City will be the home team [in the next qualifier] and will be looking to win their home tournament. It will be tough to repeat out there, but that will be our goal.”

Pool Play
Denver Barbarians A over Kansas City Blues B 26-7
Glendale Raptors over Black Dragon 31-0
Kansas City Blues A over Denver Barbarians B 32-7
Omaha Goats over US Air Force Selects 26-0
Denver Barbarians A over Black Dragon 38-5
Glendale Raptors over Kansas City Blues B 47-0
Kansas City Blues A over US Air Force Selects 21-7
Omaha Goats over Denver Barbarians B 24-14
Denver Barbarians A over Glendale Raptors 24-14
Kansas City Blues B over Black Dragon 38-26
Kansas City Blues A over Omaha Goats 14-5
US Air Force Selects over Denver Barbarians B 21-14

7th/8th Place Match
Denver Barbarians B over Black Dragon 40-5

5th/6th Place Match
US Air Force Selects over Kansas City Blues B 12-0

Semifinals
Denver Barbarians A over Omaha Goats 34-0
Kansas City Blues A over Glendale Raptors 24-0

Consolation Final
Omaha Goats over Glendale Raptors 28-19

Cup Final
Denver Barbarians A over Kansas City Blues A 38-19