The Men’s Elite tournament has not disappointed, as Spain has earned its No. 1 overall seed, American sides like the Denver Barbarians and Tiger Rugby (Belmont Shore) have been very competitive, and barbarian teams like the Force XV Froggies and Social Vibe Pups have played like the mercenaries they were billed to be.
Spain has not only reached 2-0, they’ve done so with ease, dismantling a very good Chicago Lions side and Peru. The only team left in their way in pool play is Bermuda, who lost handily already to both Chicago and Peru. Look for Spain to emerge as the Pool A champs. Second place will be decided at 9:40am when the Lions battle Peru.
The most tightly contested pool has been B. The Alaska Golden Bears are the only winless team, but their two losses haven’t been major blowouts. The Phillipines Pacific, with the help of Utah Warrior and former Utah All American Matt Byrd, started the day out well with a 31-5 defeat of Alaska, but fell short against Tiger Rugby.
The Belmont Shore-based team, which features former and recent Eagles Riaan Hamilton, Ata and Nese Malifa, Peter Sio, Peter Dahl, Duncan Kelm and Justin Boyd, opened with a 14-14 tie against Chile. Some of those on Tiger Rugby are smarting from not being selected for this stretch of the IRB 7s World Series. One of those players, Kelm, won’t get the chance to prove he should have been chosen, as he suffered what is likely a tournament-ending ankle injury.
The Alaska Golden Bears are already destined for the Bowl rounds, but any of the other three teams in Pool B could reach the Cup Quarters. Given their easier draw on day two, it’s likely Tiger Rugby will advance. If Chile and Tiger win, the pool will come down to point differential.
Pool D has also been a close race. The Denver Barbarians haven’t yet scored a victory, but are minus just one in the point differential category. The Barbos tied Romania with a clutch conversion from the touchline by Maximo DeAchaval, and fell 22-21 to Dog River in a controversial close to day one.
Dog River led four-tries-to-one midway through the second half, but two quick scores, along with two DeAchaval conversions, pulled the Barbos to 21 points. Due to a tardy sub off from Denver, the Barbos were allowed to score one of their tries with what seemed to be eight men on the field. After deliberation from the ref and a touch judge, the Barbo try held up. Then a late dive into the try zone by Denver’s Ben Haapapuro was deemed held up.
The Canadian Howlers missed three of their four conversion attempts, and the ref did not blow his whistle to signal the one they’d made, leaving Denver to believe they were leading 21-20, when they were actually trailing 22-21. Had Haapapuro’s try been counted (the touch judge was again consulted, but couldn’t confirm the ball was grounded) Denver would have won and been in great position to advance to the Cup Quarters.
However, Dog River ended 22-21 winners. The Howlers take on Romania Friday, and the Barbos take on the winless Columbus Rugby Club (1823), which nearly played well enough to beat Dog River. The Barbos need to beat 1823, have Romania lose to Dog River and get the point differential to fall their way in order to move on.
Pool C has not been close, as the two foreign barbarian teams knocked off Mexico and Guyana. English Social Vibe Pups and French Force XV Froggies meet at 9am Friday to decide the pool, though both will advance to the Cup Quarters. Jason Pye and Ben Nicholls of the Utah Warriors are playing with the Pups.