The 1823 club out of Columbus went 3-0 in pool play in the Premier bracket, beating Charlotte, Old Blue, and the Kenya Exiles in the process.
“It was a good day,” said Richie Hines, who made his 2012 debut with the team. “We started kind of slow in the first half but in each game we picked it up as the game went on. I think if we keep having fun and play relaxed, we’ll do fine.”
Columbus 1823 trailed at halftime of every game, but Head Coach Paul Holmes said the team picked up their work rate in the second period.
“Tomorrow is the day that counts,” he said, as the knockout rounds start. “We are finally starting to play some good defense when it counts.”
In the other Premier Bracket, the Pacific Island Barbarians, who won the tournament in 2011, finished 3-0 in pool play.
The toughest test the Barbarians faced was by the Southern Gentlemen, the USA Rugby South All-Stars.
The South led 14-10 at halftime, but the Pacific Islanders scored twice in the second half to win 22-14.
“We made some mistakes in our end and they took advantage of it,” said South Head Coach and Former USA women’s 7s team Head Coach Julie McCoy. “We know we have to play them differently tomorrow.”
The South arrived in Cape Fear on Wednesday, going through an intense camp before the players were selected for the 1st and 2nd sides.
“My guys are fit,” said McCoy. “The conditions are tough. It’s in the 90s here and about 98% humidity. So it’s very tough. But I am very happy with the players and how they’ve approached the tournament. And it’s a great tournament. This is probably the 20th time I’ve been here and it’s really well run. The community gets behind it – the restaurants know about the rugby teams being here and welcome you. It’s great.”
Sunday sees the teams re-seeded 1st through 8, and then play quarterfinals, semis, and final.
“It’s good to do well on Saturday, but you can go 0-3 on Saturday and still win the tournament.”