You are here
The contestants of Pool C at the 2016 USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championships have the experience playing the best of the best with 40 Nationals appearances between the clubs. The competition between Old Blue, Schuylkill River, 1823, and the Olympic Club for the cup rounds will be a dogfight.
After winning the plate at last year’s event, 2016 marks the seventh consecutive appearance for Old Blue and its 14th overall. The New York club will look to win their third championship as the #1 seed out of the Atlantic North and #3 seed overall.
With Eagles Nate Augspurger and Luke Hume unavailable, head coach Dominic Wareing has preached a spread-attacking pattern that doesn’t rely on a single dominating player for all the scoring. However, new recruit Sean McGarrity, AIC graduate Gavan D’More-Morrison, and OTC Camp invitee Rick Kirkland have been impressive all summer.
“McGarrity offers something is a little bit unpredictable and can make something happen from nothing,” Wareing stated. “Up front, Morrison has been fantastic being consistent with a great work rate and attitude. Rick Kirkland on the wing, who was recently at Chula Vista at one of the OTC Camps and went to France with the USA Eagles, is a pretty devastating finisher if we can get him in position.”
Maintaining possession will be key for Old Blue, but Wareing said, “We know when we perform, we can beat anyone on the day and we pride ourselves on our fitness. If we play at that intensity that summarizes Old Blue for a full 14 minutes, hopefully we get a chance to play in the 20-minute game as well. We are looking for performances from the guys that include unrelenting pressure in defense and support and effort to finish breakaways and make things happen for the team.”
Like Old Blue, the top seed from the Mid-Atlantic, Schuylkill River, is no stranger to the Nationals scene. Having played in the last six National tournaments in a row and seven of the last eight, the Philadelphia, Pa. squad has been competing on a consistently high level for almost a decade. After finishing second in the first two Mid-Atlantic Conference qualifiers this summer, the Exiles turned it on coming in first place in the next two events to power their way to Colorado.
According to captain Pat Boyle, the club is employs a team-first mentality where everyone does their part. “It’s a true 12 man roster, but Bruce Dolan has been the best player in our region, hands down. Ben Janssen has been playing at an entire new level this year as well. The whole roster has been great, but those two in particular have personally taken their game to a whole new level.”
With plenty of experience at this tournament, Schuylkill River knows what to expect in pool play and beyond. “You learn after a while the pool is never what you expect good or bad, so spend no time focusing on it,” Boyle said. “[We want to] improve every game. Winning Nationals is war of attrition, so you need to be consistent at worst, but hopefully build on every game.”
After finishing fourth last year at the hands of Mystic River, the Columbus, Ohio-based 1823 hopes to make a splash in this summer’s big dance. The squad was looking to bolster their roster with four returning players from the 2015 team who were doing duty with Pro Rugby Ohio; however, were prevented from playing this summer due to contract and schedule conflicts. 1823 attempted to obtain a waiver, but were denied by USA Rugby. As a result, the team will only travel to Nationals with ten players.
Even without the extra help, 1823 will be a contender for the championship. The team had little trouble getting through the Midwest Conference competition as they took home three first place wins and one second. Despite a disappointing loss to the Chicago Lions in the Midwest final, 1823’s main goal for this weekend is to get out of pool play and into the cup round.
“We have a good mix of old and young,” said Elliot Pollard, head coach of 1823. “Defensively, Joey Sok is very strong, as are players like Pete Friedman and Zack Stryffeler. Sam McGuffy and Mike Ziegler are both impact players. I am not sure anything is overly different with this group compared to past years, other than our senior guys have more experience.”
The final team in Pool C is NorCal’s Olympic Club making its 11th appearance at Nationals and for the first time since 2012. The height of the club’s prowess came in 2003 when it reached the cup final, but has struggled to find their way since. Head coach Beau Epperly is enthusiastic about this year’s contest saying, “All four teams in our pool exemplify elite-level rugby. We are excited to test ourselves in a pool that promises to display various contrasting styles.”
Eagle Colin Hawley is at the helm of this year’s rendition and features the talents of Tanner Mohr, John Gallo, and Rikus Pretorius. “Hawley and Pretorius are threats from anywhere on the field in their ability to regain our structure and manage the game,” Epperly stated. “John Gallo threatens from the outside (two tries against Seattle at regionals). Defensively, Tanner Mohr sets the tone with high intensity contact and work rate.”
Epperly’s philosophy for the Olympic Club to succeed “is to remain disciplined in our attack pattern and connected in our defensive structure. We've placed heavy emphasis defense and set piece play this year, a departure from the traditional open-play emphasis of year's past. Our players earned a spot at Nationals by devising a simple defense-first game plan, executed with punctilious commitment.”