The Cup quarterfinal round started with a blowout, when the Utah Warriors crushed Marist of Hawaii 40-5. Marist was never in it, and Utah seemed to be on a warpath.
Maka Unife, who is the breakout player of the tournament, scored immediately, and Marist trailed the rest of the way. Ben Nicholls had a very worthy performance dotting down three tries.
The only potential setback for Utah was a limping Jason Pye. He pulled up limp, scored a try and then subbed off. Pye plays an integral role for the Warriors as the leader on the field. If he's hurt, they could suffer in the semis or finals.
The next game was a battle of two of the hardest-wrking teams in the tournament, Middlesex and Schuylkill. Middlesex jumped out to an early lead directly following the kickoff, and it seemed as though they may do to Schuylkill what they'd done to the competition on day one, out-effort them.
However, Schuylkill took a 14-5 lead with back-to-back tries from Greg Ambrogi and Will Knipscher and led the rest of the way, ultimately winning 29-15. Ambrogi was impressive, as he has been all tournament.
The final two Cup quarters were outstanding. Youngbloodz, the youngest team in the tournament and in their first-ever trip to Nationals, upset the Woodlands Exiles.
Youngbloodz led 12-0 near the end of the half with Tavake Sanft in the sin bin, and the threat of the Exiles' two Canadian internatinoals, Phil Mack and John Moonlight, taking over still loomed.
It started to happen just before the half when Mack took a ball from a ruck weakside and darted up the touch line setting up the Exiles first score.
Down 12-7 at intermission, the Exiles carried the momentum into the break. Moonlight took the second-half restart and raced it in for his first try of the game, giving the Houston team its first lead of the game. Not long after, he scored another long-range try via a superb individual effort to extend that lead to 21-12. It appeared as though the Youngbloodz were dead.
However, just as they had done against the Denver Barbarians in their first game of pool play, the Youngbloodz kept going, resulting in a Garrett Bender try that left about 90 seconds on the clock. The conversion was missed, and the Youngbloodz had to kick back to the Exiles down 21-17.
The Exiles worked into the Youngbloodz half of the field, but pesky defense forced a knock and a scrum. From that breakdown, Bender found an overlap and outraced Mack over half of the field for the winning score at the death, advancing the Youngbloodz Cinderella run to the Cup semis.
The final Cup quarterfinal, between Belmont Shore and Chicago, was the most anticipated, and it delivered. Chicago scored first after converting early Belmont pressure into a turnover deep in their end. When the Lions secured possession, they gave it to Rocco Mauer, who left Belmont in the dust en route to an 80-meter try.
Belmont nearly responded when Ed Pitts burst toward pay dirt, but he was stopped inches short of the try line and Shore was called for diving into the ruck. Belmont and Chicago exchanged entertaining offensive possessions and defensive stands, but the score remained 7-0 going into halftime.
Taylor Howden got Belmont on the scoreboard to start the second half by dummying an outside pass to Justin Boyd, creating a crease, which he took directly between the posts. Shalmon Suniula hit the conversion, leveling the score at 7-7.
Chicago's Peter Tiberio looked set to give the Lions a late lead when he shot through the center of Belmont's defense near midfield with no tackler in front of him. However, Boyd made the play of the game by closing in on him from several steps behind (think Willie Mays Hayes in Major League) and tackling him just short of five points.
Belmont tipped the scales in their favor by subbing on speedster Alex Ross near the 90-second mark. His first touch resulted in a blazing 50-plus-meter try during which he flew past Chicago's JP Eloff. There was enough time for one more play after Ross's score, but Chicago couldn't keep the ball alive, and Belmont advanced 14-7 winners.
The semifinals pit Utah against Schuylkill River and Youngbloodz against Belmont Shore. Anything other than a Utah/Belmont Shore final should be considered an upset.