This past weekend the University of Central Florida hosted the 20th Annual Todd Miller Charity Sevens Tournament. All proceeds from the tournament go directly to Todd Miller, who was a UCF rugger who severely injured his neck and spine during a rugby game on October 26, 1991. The injury left him paralyzed from the waist down with limited upper body movement, thus altering his life forever. It is through this tournament that the Florida rugby community gets together to remember and support Todd and also to celebrate the sport he loves.
This year’s tournament featured men's and college teams from all across the state of Florida; Orlando, Daytona, Miami, Naples, Boca Raton, Brevard, Pasco, Ft. Lauderdale and college teams FSU, USF, FAU and the hosts UCF.
The games started under overcast skies as the treat of rain loomed, but the quality of rugby was not diminished due to the weather. As the day went on three teams clearly separated themselves in pool play with unblemished marks, Orlando, Daytona & Boca Raton. The fourth team that emerged from pool play was Florida State University, which moved on with the best points differential of several 2-1 teams on the day.
In the Bowl Final, Miami RFC outlasted FAU 24-21. Miami's physicality and patience at the point of contact let them take control of the game and capitalize on any FAU mistakes.
The Plate Final pitted Ft. Lauderdale RFC against the University of South Florida. This game saw young a USF side come up against a very well organized & patient Ft. Lauderdale attack that starved USF of the ball and scoring opportunities. Ft. Lauderdale emerged victors, 19-7.
The Cup Final was a rematch from the Cup Finals of the Surfin Sevens Tournament the week prior as Daytona and Orlando squared off for a tournament title once again. These two teams separated themselves from the rest of the field as the day wore on by racking up the points with quick-scoring offenses while stifling their opponents with well-organized defenses. Daytona struck first with some well-played ball off of a mishandled kick and promptly took the lead at 7-0. Orlando found themselves on the defensive again as a put in at the scrum was stolen. Daytona was off with some quality passing to find the try zone again for a 14-0 lead. It was a back and forth battle until the final minute of the half when Orlando launched a good attacking sequence only to be let down by a costly knock on and Daytona quickly took advantage with a nice counter attack, making it 21-0 at the half. With Orlando's captain out with injury just before halftime and pride on the line Orlando came out in the second half and played inspired defense, shutting down Daytona's attacks and scoring a try under the posts as time expired, showing there was no quit in them. Daytona prevailed 21-7 to take the 20th Todd Miller Tournament. Both teams are headed to the South Championships in July and are excited that this rivalry has been renewed and look to continue it in Atlanta.
The Todd Miller Tournament has long been the end of the summer 7s season in Florida, but this year it served as the warm up to a true Florida championship that takes place Saturday, July 9 in Daytona. This year under the guidance of Daytona's Coach Brian Richardson, the FRU started the Florida Elite Sevens Series to help prepare those teams who truly want to improve their play. "We need to play more 7s games in the summer between tournaments if we expect to go onto the Championships and compete at a higher level,” Brian Richardson of Daytona said. "These stops allow us to give newer players a chance to prove themselves and gain playing experience they may not get at a conventional tournament."
With multiple stops around the state throughout the summer similar to the IRB format, eight teams were invited to participate in a points-based system to determine a Florida Champion and help to evaluate talent for an FRU 7s All Star Team. The final stop will be in Daytona at 10,000 seat, multi-use Municipal Stadium. Once again the rivals from Daytona and Orlando are squaring off for the championship as the clear leaders in points coming into the final stop.