Belmont Shore and the Chicago Lions will face each other at Ray Sheeran Field on Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif. for the Club 7s National Championship. Belmont advanced to the final with a 19-12 defeat of the Denver Barbarians and the Chicago Lions moved on by dispatching of Old Blue 19-14.
Belmont and the Lions met in each other's first game of the tournament Saturday, with the Lions winning 17-12.
Belmont 19-12 Denver
Eric "Beast" Duechle opened the scoring immediately in the first semifinal. The massive forward got the ball on the perimeter with one teammate outside him, accelerated past Denver's Logan Collins and fended off Maximo DeAchaval en route to pay dirt. Kameron Moeller converted the try, putting Belmont up 7-0 after the first minute.
Denver got on the board just two minutes later when Kyle Hitt took a typically hard crash up the right touch line, drawing in multiple defenders. DeAchaval supported with a powerful ruck and the Barbos swung the ball wide to Logan Colins, who banged through two Belmont tacklers for a try. DeAachaval missed the conversion, leaving Belmont up 7-5.
The Long Beach club was pinged for obstruction on the ensuing restart and for another penalty at the next breakdown. Taylor Howden capitalized on the free yardage and sliced against the grain of Belmont's defense for a try to put Denver up 12-7 with under a minute to go before the half.
Mike Te'o tried to pull Belmont back level with a high pop kick and gather, but he was tackled and Denver stole the ball. The Barbos drove to within meters of scoring again, but Howden knocked on while pirouetting toward pay dirt.
The Barbos were caught not roling away at the tackle early in the second half, and instead of playing with advantage, Te'o intentionally dropped the ball directly in front of the ref, forcing him to blow the whistle. Before Denver had time to retreat, Te'o toed through the ball and squirted into the try zone. Moeller converted, putting Belmont up 14-12.
Hitt, who had been fantastic for Denver all weekend, waved off a sub after the try and made one more surge toward the try line. He was tackled, but didn't think he was held, got up and dove into the try zone. The ref said he was indeed held and awarded a penalty to Belmont. On the ensuing possession, Moeller raced past Denver for a try to extend Belmont's lead to 19-12.
The conversion attempt was missed, giving the Barbos one more restart, but two knock-ons ended their bid for the club's first-ever National Title.
Belmont Shore 19
Tries: Duechle, Te'o, Moeller
Cons: Moeller (2)
Tries: Collins, Howden
Chicago 19-14 Old Blue
In the second semifinal, the Lions never trailed, but never pulled away from Old Blue. Rocco Mauer scored seconds into the game, sprinting through a hole immediately after the opening kickoff. For what seemed to be the first time all weekend, Mauer was running with absolute confidence. Dan Wright slotted the conversion, putting the Lions up 7-0.
Old Blue's top speedster Derek Lipscomb rebutted with a blazing try of his own in the fifth minute. The Lions were controlling possession with some contact-heavy movements, but the ball squirted out of a tackle inside Old Blue's defending 22 and Lipscomb picked it up and raced about 80 meters for the try. Peter Jericevich hit the conversion to knot the game at 7-7.
Mauer put Chicago back on top just minutes later, when he caught the ball on the wing with little space, turned on the gas and blew past Old Blue's Kyle Granby for an 80-plus-meter score. Dan Wright hit the touch line conversion to extend Chicago's lead to 14-7 going into intermission.
Old Blue brought on newly capped 15s Eagle Luke Hume after halftime, and he'd make his mark on the game, but not until the Lions scored again.
With the ball on the right side of the field, Old Blue's Elliott Rechtin floated a pass toward midfield, and Chicago's Jordan Highberger picked it off and dished to Wright for the Lions' third try. Wright converted, making it 19-7 midway through the second half.
Hum got his first meaningful touch shortly thereafter and wiggled around a looming Mauer tackle and cut upfield. Once caught, he offloaded to Jericevich who dotted down New York's second try. Converted, Old Blue trailed by just a try.
The Lions were awarded a penalty with about 30 seconds left on the clock. Instead of tapping the ball and running the clock out, they went for a lineout, but lost possession when the throw-in didn't go five meters and gave Old Blue another chance.
Steve Strydom made a probing run into Chicago's end, but the Lions' defense stiffened and turned the ball over to end the game.
Tries: Mauer (2), Wright
Cons: Wright (2)
Old Blue 14
Tries: Jericevich, Lipscomb
Cons: Jericevich (2)