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Belmont Shore finished atop Pool A with a 3-0 record Saturday at Founder’s Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. While the day started easily enough for Shore, it didn’t finish that way, as the San Diego Old Aztecs, who needed a win to advance, delivered a good fight in the final round.
The defending champs stumbled a bit out of the gate, with knock-ons featuring heavily in their match against Hawaii’s Titan. But Belmont, playing at 6am their time, adjusted quicker to the time change than Titan, playing at 3am their time, and ran out to a 29-0 win.
“Once we warmed up everything was cool,” said Belmont’s Jack Tracy. “We felt worse for them. They were six hours behind. We were like, we have the advantage, if anything.”
In Pool A’s second match, Atlanta Old White took advantage of the hard hands of the San Diego Old Aztecs. Atlanta ran in three first-half tries as the Old Aztecs knocked on ball after ball and committed some untimely penalties, but still San Diego was in the game. Speedster Pierce Reed rounded the corner to put San Diego on the board a few minutes into the second half, but the conversion attempt missed.
With just under a minute-and-a-half to play, the Old Aztecs appeared to be in for another score, and they'd have had time for another kickoff, but the finishing pass was knocked on, and Atlanta ran out the clock for the upset.
In the second round, Belmont dispatched of Atlanta 26-10 and San Diego blasted past Titan 29-5 to setup a rematch of Southern California foes in a contest that would help decide who advanced to the Cup Quarterfinals.
“It’s kind of like a rivalry game, so it’s always tight,” said Tracy of playing San Diego. “They always hang tough, and luckily we came away with that one.”
Belmont needed every minute of the game to put it away. Justin Boyd, a member of the 2011 National Championship Belmont team, scored in the first minute to put the Old Aztecs up, and Mikey Te’o muscled his way to a try at the end of the first half. San Diego’s Ben Nicholls dotted down early in the second half to regain the lead. Tries from Ollie Cregg in the 13th minute and Robert Ah Sue in the 14th minute sealed Belmont’s perfect day.
That result, combined with Atlanta’s close win over Titan, saw Old White move into the Cup Quarterfinals as the pool’s second seed.
Belmont will be looking for a third-straight National Championship Sunday. Tracy, who was a part of the 2012 title-winning squad, says the dynamic is a little different this year.
“We had a way different squad last year, and we just have a lot more pieces this year. We’ve got more experience,” he said. “I think we’ve got better athletes than we had last year, so we’re expecting to do better. We feel like we can play with anybody. We got through today, but tomorrow’s a whole other day.”
The combination of Mike Te’o and Tai Enosa – two really quick, explosive steppers, has proven difficult for teams to corral. Which is good, because lurching on the other side of the bracket from Belmont is Seattle-OPSB.
“It would be interesting,” said Tracy of a potential meeting with Seattle in the final. “I feel like we stack up fine. I feel like we can stack up athlete wise, fitness wise, structure wise, so I feel like it would be a good game.”
Up first for Belmont on Sunday are the Denver Barbarians, who gave Chicago a tough game and played a really sound pattern all day Saturday. Atlanta draws the undefeated Chicago Lions in their quarterfinal.