Belmont Shore, Old Blue, the Chicago Lions and Denver Barbarians have advanced to the Cup Semifinals.
Denver was the first team to advance, holding off 2011 finalists Schuylkill River for a 26-14 win.
Kyle Hitt opened scoring in the first minute to put the Barbos up 7-0, after a Maximo DeAchaval conversion. Schuylkill responded when James Rosato sucked two defenders to the touch line and threw an overhead pass to Gavin Blower for the score. Rosato converted to knot the game at 7-7.
Schuylkill nearly extended the lead immediately after the ensuing restart, when the Barbarians missed on a lineout near their own five-meter-line, but the pass that would have put the try in the books was called forward.
On their next possession, the Barbos got the ball wide to Hitt with space in front of him. The University of Northern Colorado product rumbled over and past multiple attempted tackles for his second try. DeAchaval converted to make it 14-7.
Sensing the need for a score before halftime, Schuylkill brought on hobbled star Greg Ambrogi. With his first touch of the ball, he streaked up the sideline for a try, which he converted, to level the table at 14-14 going into intermission. Ambrogi went back to limping heavily and wouldn't be a factor the rest of the game.
Denver pulled ahead again partially on good fortune, as referee Leah Berard missed a knock on by Denver's Logan Collins when he tried to pull the ball from a ruck. The Barbos maintained possession and Taylor Howden eventually goose-stepped two defenders at point-blank distance before diving in for the try to make it 19-14
Reserve Brendan Cox put the final nail in Schuylkill's coffin with a try in the 13th minute, displaying an explosive first step and enough pace to finish.
Tries: Hitt (2), Howden, Cox
Cons: DeAchaval (3)
Schuylkill River 14
Tries: Ambrogi, Blower
Cons: Rosato, Ambrogi
Belmont Shore then escaped the clutches of the Youngbloodz to advance, winning a rematch of last year's semifinal 14-7. The Youngbloodz scored first, taking the opening restart and working a long possession into a try when Ayrton Scott broke through with a powerful run. Sam Augspurger converted to make it 7-0.
The Youngbloodz controlled the tempo of the game for the next several minutes, disrupting any attack Belmont tried to put together with some strong tackles and tenacity. But on a penalty play following a long break from Ollie Craig, Mike Te'o burst for Belmont's first try. Kameron Moeller converted to make it 7-7, which is how the half would end.
Belmont and the Youngbloodz continued to trade possession for the opening several minutes of the first half, but the stalemate was broken when Garrett Bender was sin binned for offsides. Te'o took the tap, ran powerfully into the Youngbloodz defense and offloaded to Ed Pitts, who returned the favor to put Te'o through for the go ahead score, making it 14-7 with little time left on the clock.
Belmont kicked the restart straight out, giving the Youngbloodz another chance. Nat Augspurger kicked ahead for Louis Joubert, but Peter Dahl fielded the kick. Joubert made the tackle, forcing a knock on and the final play. The Youngbloodz reversed field and were called for holding on in the tackle to end the game.
Belmont Shore 14
Tries: Teo 2
Convs: Moeller 2
Convs: S. Augspurger
The next game was perhaps the most exciting of the tournament so far, as the Chicago Lions knocked off favorite Old Puget Sound Beach 14-10 to advance to the semifinals. OPSB was lights out on day one, winning by an average margin of victory exceeding 33 points.
But Chicago, who didn't have an ideal day one, started the game with more intensity. They controlled possession and forced a lot of contact early, but the ball squirted through the back of one of their rucks. and Filimone Botitu scooped it up and raced for the first try. Rocco Mauer hustled back in defense, forcing Botitu to dot down in the corner, and OPSB missed the conversion.
Chicago played relentless defense, and it paid off when Mike Palefau made a break, got caught and threw a pass to no one. Dan Wright, who was working back to defend, scooped up the ball and raced for the score. After the successful conversion, the Lions led 7-5.
OPSB nearly scored in the corner to end the first half when Palefau made another probing run and dished to Emosi Vucago, but Eloff held onto Vucago's jersey long enough for his support to arrive and shove the Fijian international into touch and end the half.
OPSB regained the lead early in the second half when Miles Craigwell intercepted a Chicago pass and executed two give-and-gos, one with Michael Nelson and the other with Pat Blair, putting Blair through for the go-ahead try in the left corner. OPSB again missed its conversion, leaving it 10-7 in their favor.
Chicago subbed out Mauer and lost JP Eloff to a blood sub, but proved their depth with a long possession, which reserve Brian Rooney was integral in keeping alive. Playing with a penalty advantage, Ed Bluemel twisted and turned in contact to inches short of the try line, and Edmund Cassidy took it the rest of the way for the go-ahead try. Chicago converted the score to make the lead 14-10.
There was still a restart to be had, and OPSB held onto a chance. Botitu made that chance more realistic when he broke through two arm tackles and into the open field. But he toyed with the final Lion defender long enough to allow more to get back into the play. When he was wrapped up, Botitu flung a desperate offload to Trevor Richards, who had no support and had the ball stripped from him to end the game.
Chicago Lions 14
Tries: Mauer, Cassidy
Convs: Highberger, Wright
Tries: Botitu, Blair
The last quarterfinal saw Old Blue knock off another pre-tournament favorite, the San Diego Old Aztecs, 26-17. Unlike on day one, Matt Hawkins played the entire game for San Diego, but he was rusty. He allowed himself to be shoved into touch early on, and made a more critical mistake later.
The first half was all Old Blue, as speedsters Derek Lipscomb and Kyle Granby scored impressive long-range tries. Partnered with the opening score from Steve Strydom and three conversions from Peter Jerecevich, they put Old Blue up 21-0 going into halftime.
The Old Aztecs came alive in the second stanza, and they got on the board when Mike Shea went into contact off of a penalty play and offloaded to Riaan Hamilton for a try. Converted, the Old Aztecs trailed 21-7.
San Diego went on attack again, and Old Blue lost Elliott Rechtin to the sin bin for talking. The Old Aztecs were awarded yet another penalty on the possession, putting them five meters from pay dirt. This is when Hawkins made the key mistake, toeing through the ball, charging over an Old Blue defender and knocking on to end the scoring threat. If the Aztecs score there and convert, they're down just seven. Instead, Strydom scored his second try of the game to extend the lead to 26-7.
Old Blue was lucky to not lose two more players to the sin bin in the second half, as two professional fouls were penalized but not carded. Even if they had been, San Diego had already put itself in an insurmountable hole.
Old Blue 26
Tries: Lipscomb, Granby, Strydom 2
Convs: Jericevich 3
Old Aztecs 17
Tries: Shea 2, Hamilton