There were definitely two tiers of competitiveness within the Men’s Elite 7s division during the Las Vegas Invitational’s opening day, but that didn’t mean some at-the-whistle wins didn’t highlight pool play. Two of the most exciting games occurred during the last round and included the only undefeated teams – Southern Gentlemen and Eastside Tsunami.
Julie McCoy hand selected the players for Southern Gentlemen, and her keen eye paid off. Entering the last round, the team had beaten el azul 40-14 and Dog River Howlers 12-7, and ended the day against their toughest competition, Northwest Warriors.
The Warriors used their size to overcommit players to the tackle and found space out wide for the first try, then cleaned up a bobbling ball at midfield to pierce the scrambling defense for the second.
The Gentlemen tied it up before the half when speedy wing Bobby Allen simply took the corner from about 30 meters.
“Bobby Allen was the top try scorer at the All Star 7s,” McCoy noted. “He was the best player to not receive an invite the USA 7s camp.” Due to his size? “I have no idea. You’d have to ask Al [Caravelli].
Team captain Jeff Reuther, the older player at 30, closed the gaps shortly afterward, scampering down the sideline for the team’s second try. It was an important score for the Gentlemen and was appropriate that it came from the captain.
“He’s a mature, impeccable leader that you would follow, a guy you would marry, just a quality person,” McCoy said. “He makes our job so easy.”
“He’s a coach on the field,” assistant coach Chris Ryan said. “He leads through his actions more than words.”
The teams traded scores in the second half, and right at the buzzer, the Gentlemen scored the go-ahead try, adding a conversion that was made easier when the tryscorer slid into the try zone, didn’t ground the ball, then popped back up to center the try, 26-19.
“Taking a look at the rest of the teams today, I think they were the toughest team out there,” Ryan said.
“I would like to see us in the final, win or lose,” McCoy added.
The competition is only going to get tougher and there are several teams that could pose problems, including the Eastside Tsunami and EPA Bulldogs. The two were undefeated heading into the final round and played to an epic 14-12 decision that went to Eastside.
The game played out as the Tsunamis expected, and it all came down to a conversion.
The key to the Tsunamis’ game is twofold: excellent team speed and very capable forwards.
“Our forwards play like backs,” Jeff Hein said. “When they hit the ground, they’re popping it right back up, and we get it to our outside speed really fast. That’s our biggest advantage.”
“Also, we noticed that other teams have guys who will run it back and forth across the field,” Hein continued. “We’re pretty good about spreading the ball. You can always pass the ball faster than a guy can run. We also come off the line super aggressive and don’t waste any time trying to get the ball back.”
It would be no surprise to see any of the three aforementioned teams in the final of the Aces today.
Men's Aces Pool Play
Dog River 14-0 Colorado School of Mines
Southern Gentlemen 40-14 el azul
Eastside Tsunami 14-0 Marist
EPA Bulldogs 53-0 UBC Okanagan
el azul 19-12 Dog River
Colorado School of Mines 0-29 Southern Gentlemen
Dixie State 0-14 EPA Bulldogs
NW Warriors 45-14 el azul
Dog River 7-12 Southern Gentlemen
Dixie State 7-41 EPA Bulldogs
Marist Hawaii 0-14 UBC Okanagan
Southern Gentlemen 26-19 NW Warriors
el azul 24-14 School of Mines
UBC Okanagan 35-14 Dixie State
EPA Bulldogs 12-14 Eastside Tsunami