WE Rugby, formerly The Woodlands Exiles, won the second West Qualifier Saturday in Lee’s Summit, Mo., impressively going 6-0 en route to the title. WE Rugby went 4-0 in pool play, conceding just three tries. They then beat the host Kansas City Blues 24-0 in the semifinal and the Denver Barbarians 26-10 in the final.
Denver escaped its pool as the top seed, despite being in a three-way tie with the Blues and Dallas Harlequins, all of whom went 3-1 in pool play. Denver beat Kansas City, Dallas beat Denver, and Kansas City beat Dallas. Greater point differential saw the Blues get out of the pool as the second seed and the ‘Quins’ Nationals hopes effectively dashed. Dallas, which finished fourth in the first qualifier, needed points from the weekend.
Glendale also had a disappointing weekend. A pool-opening upset by Omaha put the Raptors behind the eight ball from the get-go, and only a win over WE Rugby would put them through to the points rounds. The Woodlands won that all-important match 33-5.
Now, with one tournament left – Denver July 20th – four teams are vying for two bids to Nationals. WE Rugby and the Blues share the driver’s seat with eight points each. The Barbarians and Glendale, with four points each, can cling to hopes of a Nationals berth only with a tournament win.
The Woodlands, with Shaun Potgieter and Zac Mizell having returned from the All Americans tour, were at full strength for the tournament. They played well all day, as did a bevy of their teammates. Hunter Leland gave WE Rugby an extra gear, Alfred Qaranivalu was physically imposing and Zinzan Elan-Putick was steady at the scrumhalf position.
In the final, Denver jumped out to an early lead when Brendan Cox dotted down. The conversion was missed.
WE Rugby responded with a pair of first half tries. A penalty at the breakdown was quick-tapped by Mizell, who pierced the Denver defense. Leland hustled in support and was rewarded with a try. The next score was Qaranivalu’s, putting the Exiles up going into intermission.
The second half was chippy from the start, with Mizell and Denver’s Maximo DeAchaval nearly engaging in fisticuffs. And just as The Woodlands threatened to blow the game wide open, some very stingy goal line defense from Denver repelled the attack and kept the contest close.
That couldn’t last forever, though, and Qaranivalu scored his second after a Denver penalty was kicked to touch, putting WE Rugby deep in the attacking end. Qaranivalu caught the ball at the back of the lineout and bolted in for the try.
Denver responded immediately, as the ensuing restart went out the back of the try zone, giving the Barbos a free kick at midfield. Brian Garey got the score after several phases.
The game was effectively iced when Leland ran another strong support line off the wing and carried in his second try of the game.
WE Rugby 41-0 KC United
Omaha 29-5 Fort Worth
Glendale 36-0 KC United
Omaha 24-7 KC United
WE Rugby 33-5 Glendale
Omaha 19-14 Glendale
WE Rugby 24-7 Omaha
Glendale 24-17 Fort Worth
Fort Worth 17-5 KC United
WE Rugby 22-5 Fort Worth
KC Blues 22-0 El Azul
El Azul 19-10 St. Louis Ramblers
KC Blues 17-7 Dallas Harlequins
Dallas Harlequins 17-14 El Azul
Denver Barbarians 36-5 St. Louis Ramblers
KC Blues 19-10 St. Louis Ramblers
Dallas Harlequins 22-14 St. Louis Ramblers
Denver Barbarians 24-10 KC Blues
Denver Barbarians 33-17 El Azul
Dallas Harlequins 21-10 Denver Barbarians
SF: WE Rugby 24-0 KC Blues
SF: Denver Barbarians 24-19 Omaha
3rd/4th: KC Blues 17-12 Omaha
5th/6th: Glendale 35-12 El Azule
7th/8th: Dallas Harlequins 24-7 Fort Worth
Final: WE Rugby 26-10 Denver Barbarians