Four teams will be vying for a spot at Nationals this weekend at the final West qualifier at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Denver. The host Barbarians, Glendale, WE Rugby and the Kansas City Blues are still in the running, and they’re joined by six other teams in the tournament’s top division, including the Mexican National Team and an Army All Stars team. With 10 sides in the qualifier, the field is split into two pools of five.
WE Rugby and the Blues, winners of the first two qualifiers, lead the West with eight points each. The Barbos and Raptors have four points each. The best route to winning a Nationals berth for the local teams will be finishing first this weekend. If they do that, and either KC or WE finish fourth or worse, they’re in.
If Glendale or Denver win and WE and KC finish second and third, there will be a tie between the Barbos and whoever finishes third. The tiebreaker is head-to-head win/loss in qualifier matches.
Theoretically, Denver and Glendale can make it to Nationals if they finish second, either WE or KC don’t reach the semifinals, and they beat that team in the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Denver will have its strongest side of the summer on had at Dick’s, with Tommy Pasque, Ben Haapapuro and Logan Collins all running out on the same team for the first time this season, and veteran Jake Humphrey making his 2013 series debut. Kyle Hitt, Denver’s contact-loving wing, is a maybe. He is still banged up from the 15s season, but may run Saturday. Either way, Denver has more weapons than they have had thus far.
Glendale, on the other hand, is going to field a similar side to that which failed to reach the Cup Quarterfinals in Kansas City two weeks ago. Dewon Reed and Iniki Fa’amausili are maybes because of injury, but the Raptors will have the Pauga brothers, Preston Bryant, Spencer Scott, Brett Willis and Peceli Rinakama. Coach Andre Snyman is hopeful that continuity will help Glendale improve on a disappointing performance the last time out.
WE Rugby is fielding a side similar to that which won in Kansas City, minus Zac Mizell. The Houston-area team was dominant at the last qualifier with plenty of depth, and Arkansas State All American Pat Sullivan will step up in Mizell’s absence. Gavin Brown, a former High School All American and a member of the Arkansas State National Championship 7s team, will make his qualifier debut in Denver.
Kansas City is reeling from a losing bout with the injury bug. The Blues will be missing as many as five starters this weekend, with Ed Mills, the leading try scorer from KC’s first-place team in The Woodlands, still on holiday in Ireland. Tim Curtis and Drew Haig are also out with injury, and Marty and Casey Cummings are questionable.
“Hopefully we can make it through with these young guys and regroup and get it back together for Nationals,” Blues coach Scott Kramm said.
Most of the tournament will be played on pristine grass pitches just outside the MLS Stadium’s walls, but at least the qualifier semifinals and final, along with games from the other divisions, will be played inside the stadium. Between an unparalleled venue, webcast coverage and unmatched amenities, Denver 7s is easily the most enjoyable club 7s tournament for fans and spectators.
The early day action is free, but admittance into the stadium is $12 for adults, $7 for students under the age of 18, and children under 12 get in free. $65 VIP tickets come with suite access and free food and beer from noon until 6pm. Stay tuned to RUGBYMag for webcasting details.