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The Maryland Exiles won the first Qualifier 7s tournament of the year Saturday at the Monk Vaughan 7s in Richmond Virginia, and as a result secured a spot in the Mid-Atlantic championship tournament on Norfolk, Va. July 21.

The Exiles were led by Owen Lentz, Pablo Martinez and Junior Sucu, but had to work very hard for their title. After defeating Washington in the semis, they faced Norfolk in the final. The two teams battled to a 14-14 tie at full time. In sudden death, hooker Mark McKinnon ran in support of a Lentz break, took a tight pass and raced 60 meters around the cover defense to score the winner. Maryland 19 Norfolk 14.

McKinnon had been a wing for the Exiles 7s team, but Head Coach Chris Harvey moved him to hooker.

“We moved him there to provide some pace in the forwards,” said Harvey. “It paid off.”

Meanwhile Norfolk weren’t happy with the loss, but with scrumhalf Ross Inia leading the way, take a solid points total into the remainder of the MARFU series.

“Overall we’re very happy with today’s performance,” said Head Coach Chris Porter.

Meanwhile Washington exacted revenge for a loss earlier in the day, defeating Pittsburgh Harlequins 15-10 to take third.

“It was a good tournament,” said Pittsburgh’s Head Coach Steve Hunt, who got big games from Ben Paul, Zack Schnell, and especially Zach Jessell.

“Jessell was very strong in the tackle for us,” said Hunt. “We had a long day and I think both teams were worn down at the end. We played all the players we needed to play and it was good.”

Those four teams, Maryland, Norfolk, Washington and Pittsburgh are now the top four in MARFU. The Mid-Atlantic series moves on to Norfolk next week, then Wilmington June 30, Columbia, Md. July 14, and then back to Norfolk for the finals a week later.

The top eight teams qualify for the final tournament, which will decide who makes the national tournament. Schuylkill River, which finished 2nd in the nation last year, did not participate in Richmond as the team had a previous commitment.