Olympians, upsets and all the high flying, fast scoring action of Rugby 7s was on display Friday as the sixth edition of the RugbyTown 7s kicked off at Infinity Park. For fans who came out to watch, there was plenty to behold with 20 teams contested 28 matches on Day 1 of the three-day tournament, each competing for a shot at the $10,000 winner-take-all purse.
Defending tournament champions Denver 7s kicked off the tournament – and their title defense – off on the right foot with a 28-7 win over Royal Air Force. But Denver faces tough competition in Pool A from Rugby Utah, recent winners of the Club 7s National Championship. Rugby Utah ended Friday atop Pool A, going undefeated in three matches including a 33-5 win over Denver. But the Denver 7s are not far behind with seven points in the Pool A table.
In Pool B, five teams representing each of the United States armed forces went head-to-head as they compete not only for RT7s glory, but simultaneously compete for the Military Championship. All-Army has been the winner of the past four Military Championships, and with nine points in the pool after Day 1, looks once again poised to take home hardware.
“It’s a year-long effort,” longtime All-Army rugger Nate Conkey said of the team’s performances. “We’re continually scouting and we make it easy to play by keeping our patterns simple.”
Rivals Air Force and Coast Guard were not far behind however, each with seven points in the table.
RugbyTown 7s often features new teams and talent and this year’s tournament is no exception. The Fiji (SAVU Water) Selects, comprised of members of Team Fiji, who won gold at the Olympics in 2016 are new participants to this year’s tournament. Fiji Selects entered the tournament as a fan favorite and expected front runner.
But an early 26-21 upset by U.K. based club Ramblin Jesters over Fiji helped propel the Jesters to the top of Pool C with nine points by the end of Friday’s action.
“Every club has a special day in its history and this is one of them,” Ramblin Jesters head coach Josh Macy said following the win.
Rounding out Pool C, the Atavus All-Stars and Collegiate All-Americans were not far behind in a tie for second with seven points in the table, while Fiji enters Day 2 with four points but a game in hand.
“King of Sevens” Waisale Serevi, who has featured in multiple important roles for Atavus, Fiji and the RT7s over the years, was impressed with how the tournament kicked off on Day 1.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be part of the tournament this year,” said Serevi.
Pool D featured an eclectic mix of teams which included the British Army, Texas-based Negro y Azul (Black and Blue), SoCal Griffins, the Cayman Islands and the hosting Glendale Merlins. This year’s tournament marks the first year Glendale plays under the Merlins moniker. Unfortunately for the home side, the Merlins dropped all three pool games on Friday, tied at the bottom of the table with the Cayman Islands. It was British Army who proved to be the class of Pool D on Day 1, winning each of its matches and leading the table with nine points.
Pool play continues Saturday with early morning rounds kicking off at 11 a.m. followed by the Military Championship (3:50 p.m.). Following the conclusion of that match, SRS Bowl and Cup Quarterfinals will round out the afternoon and evening action.
Also highlighting Saturday’s events is the Bruises & Brews Beerfest, which will take place from 12-4 p.m. in Festival Plaza, adjacent to Infinity Park. Twenty breweries will showcase their top brews, along with a few distilleries and a couple terrific hard ciders. Tickets for Glendale’s Bruises & Brews Beerfest are available for $35 online at www.glendalebeerfest.com or at the Infinity Park Stadium.
With a ticket to the Beerfest, fans also gain admittance to the 2017 RugbyTown Sevens tournament. For tickets and full information regarding this year’s RugbyTown Sevens, visit http://rugbytown7s.com/.
Featured Image Credit: RugbyTown 7s, Seth McConnell