Chicago North Shore and the Minneapolis-based Youngbloodz finished first and second at the Grand Rapid 7s, the last of the three-tournament series determining who would head to club 7s nationals. The two teams appeared in all three finals, with two titles going to North Shore and one to Youngbloodz.
North Shore got off to a slow start, as many of the players had to hit the road at 4 a.m. due to a last-minute change to game times and little time to secure hotels. It took the eventual champions a half to wake up, but once they did, North Shore posted a 31-12 win over Detroit.
The Youngbloodz were next. The game that evolved was what the players have come to expect – a fiercely contested, even battle for every inch of pitch. Youngbloodz got on the board first, but then a Nia Williams try and Lauren Doyle conversion gave the Illinois team a two-point lead. The Youngbloodz nearly took the lead into the break if it weren’t for Doyle streaking 80 meters for a try-saving tackle.
But in the second half, the Youngbloodz sent a player crashing through the line for a game-winning try, 10-7.
The loss seemed to rejuvenate North Shore as they head to the semifinals of this tiny division. The team saw Detroit once again in the semifinals, but didn’t experience the first-half lag seen in their first match. North Shore ran out to a 42-0 victory and another game against the Youngbloodz. The two teams were tied in qualifier points, so the final would determine who would take the first seed to nationals.
The title match contrasted greatly to the teams’ earlier faceoff, as North Shore dominated every phase of play. Williams once again was a try-scoring machine, leading the speedy charge around the edges. She got the scoring rolling, and a waterfall of scores followed as North Shore won 57-7.
“Rookie Madison KIssner showed a lot of heart and improved every game, nailing tackle after tackle and getting a few long runs in,” Chicago North Shore 7s coordinator Mary Williams Barber said. “Veteran Alison Freidham stepped up to play scrumhalf and was easily the scrappiest player of the tournament. She fought tooth and nail for every ball and ran in plenty of tries. And Lauren Doyle was once against our leading try scorer and accounted for all of our conversions.”
The Youngbloodz prevented the shutout in the final minute when Sylvia Braaten barreled through the line.
The brackets are being reshuffled as it is rumored that the West may have forfeited their two seeds to nationals. The Military 7s team, as well, has been unavailable for clarification, which could mean there are currently only 13 teams planning on attending. This is what we know thus far:
Northeast (2): 1. Boston Belles, 2. Falcons (New York finished second but forfeited their seed.)
Mid-Atlantic (3): 1. NOVA 1, 2. DC Furies, 3. NOVA 2
South (1): Southern Exposure
Midwest (2): 1. Chicago North Shore, 2. Youngbloodz
Pacific Coast (3): 1. Seattle, 2. Berkeley, 3. Emerald City
Southern California (2): 1. San Diego, 2. Belmont Shore
USA Rugby has indicated on their website that the brackets will be determined today, July 24. Stay tuned as details are made available.