Seattle Old Puget Sound Beach culminated an impressive season with a 26-5 defeat of the Denver Barbarians in the final of USA Rugby's Men's Club 7s Championships.
Beach wins their second title in the space of four years, and did so in the final on the back of an impressive defensive performance.
Denver made the final by beating Belmont Shore 26-19 in the quarterfinals and Old Blue 14-5 in the semis. Seattle-OPSB took down West Coast rivals SFGG 26-10 in the quarters, before getting past highly-rated Chicago Lions in the semis.
In the final, Denver started on the front foot and dominated play in the opening half. However, OPSB did not back down on defense. Despite being rucked off the ball repeatedly, Beach made their tackles and made Denver work for every meter.
After a series of Beach penalties, Denver was finally able to score - getting the ball to Logan Collins, who was held up over the line, but managed to reach down to ground the ball.
It seemed like more of the same after that, with the Barbarians pressuring in the OPSB 22. However, a tackle from scrumhalf Emosi Vucago knocked the ball loose, and after Kellen Gordon picked it up and surged ahead, he found Mike Nelson on his hip for a connection of Central Washington University grads. Nelson burst onto the pass and was in under the posts from 50 meters out. Vucago made good on the conversion and OPSB, somehow, led 7-5 as halftime neared.
In the second half, Beach realized the rucks weren't going their way, so they avoided them. They moved the ball a little faster and made their way into the Denver 22 thanks to a Vucago break. Mike Palefau bought a little time and then found Gordon on an angle, and the big forward sold a dummy and was in under the sticks. 14-5 OPSB.
A high tackle by OPSB gave Denver a chance to attack. They came every so close, but Palefau made two big tackles in quick succession, and then tiny Simione Ratukalou brought down the imposing Tommy Pasque just short of the line to save a try.
OPSB got a turnover, and after a lineout spun the ball quickly to Miles Craigwell on the wing; he broke one tackle and sped to the line. 19-5.
After that, it seemed Denver was done. In the hot, muggy weather they knew they had a sterling defense to bash through, and, as Ratukalou had shown, none of the Seattle players was going to back down.
In fact, the final score came from a tackle, as Tim Stanfill flattened Kyle Hitt, jarring the ball loose. A scrum was called, but after the Denver players mouthed off (perhaps looking for a penalty that was not forthcoming), they were penalized and it was just a matter of getting the ball to William Rasileka for the final branch on the Barbarian funeral pyre.
Vucago's kick finished it off at 26-5.
OPSB came in with all sorts of reputation for their speed and offensive capabilities, but they won the championship on their defense, absorbing pressure during almost all the first half, and still changing ends ahead 7-5.
Denver did superbly to make the final, but in a well-played and very competitive championship, Beach deserved to be the ones celebrating.
"I think it was well competed," said OPSB coach Ben Gollings, who wasn't playing due to injury. "The level of rugby has really gone up this year, and we found ourselves in the right spot at the right time."
"We knew that Denver is a strong team and we expected them to keep the ball and they started off well," added OPSB Coach Waisale Serevi. "But we came back and I am proud of the boys."
Tries: Nelson, Gordon, Craigwell, Rasileka
Convs: Vucago 3
Denver Barbarians 5