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The first of three tournaments in the Frontier 7s took place this past weekend in Denver with the Utah NDA taking home the title. The side comprised primarily of BYU players knocked off a tough Kansas City Blues team in the final.
The Frontier qualifying region is one of the most competitive in the nation. The region is comprised of two Geographic Unions, the Mid America and the Rocky Mountain. With the large region, the teams have elected to only hold three qualifiers played every other weekend. With the large size of the frontier, traveling distances are a logistical challenge for many clubs.
The Utah NDA, Kansas City Blues, Glendale and Denver are all incredibly talented teams. However, due to the current structure where each qualifying region receives two berths regardless of talent level, two squads are going to be left out in the cold.
12 teams entered the competition but not all were vying for a qualifier berth. As such, the teams were divided into four groups of three teams. The four favorites all went undefeated setting up collision for the final four. All four heavyweights took care of business in the round of eight, setting up a pair of intense semifinals.
“I thought the overall quality of play was outstanding,” said Denver 7s Director Howard Kent.
The Utah NDA outlasted last year’s 2nd place finishers Denver in the first of the two semifinals. The Barbarians had not played a tournament as a team prior to the qualifier while Utah has been practicing as a unit ever since the college 15s season ended in the spring.
The other semifinal was a duel between Kansas City and Glendale. Both teams notched three tries but an extra conversion from the Blues sent Kansas City through to the final with a 19-17 win.
“The Glendale team, Utah team and the Kansas City Blues team have all been to one or two preparatory events so if they are not in midseason form they are certainly not in early season form. They are well along in their preparation,” Kent said of the quality of play. “This was the Barbarians first tournament of any kind so they were not as far along in their preparation.”
In the final, the Utah NDA doubled up Kansas City24-12 and claimed first place going into the next event. BYU back Calvin Whiting took home the MVP in the victory.
“They have been training together for a couple of months. As soon as the college season ended they started training for 7s.” Kent said of the Utah side. “They are quite good and they were quite well prepared….They are lifting the level the level of play and they have quite a good group of players and they enjoy their rugby.”
The Utah NDA are a unique team in that they are not a club playing all year round competing in a 15s club competition. Rather, it is an all-star team selected from the entire state of Utah. Perhaps this model, like the US Army Selects last year, is the new model for creating a stronger brand of 7s rugby. While many clubs also bring in players for the 7s circuit, the NDA system is spicing of the national competition.