Denver and Seattle-Old Puget Sound Beach will meet to decide the Club 7s National Championship at 4:30pm ET at Founder’s Field in Pittsburgh, Pa. Denver advances to the final with a 14-5 win over Old Blue, and Seattle with a 17-7 defeat of the Chicago Lions.
Denver came into the National Championships as the second seed out of the West, and they started the competition with a 12-5 loss to the Lions. Since then, they’ve been impressively organized on defense and much more forward in attack.
“Very first game we came out flat and we had no depth and that’s something we’ve talked about every single game,” said Denver coach Mark Bokhoven. “We haven’t tried to change up our pattern, we’ve just gotten better at it, I think. There’s nothing fancy we do. We just work really, really hard on offense and on defense.”
In their semifinal, most of Denver’s offensive firepower came from captain Maximo DeAchaval, who accounted for all of the Barbos’ points with two tries and two conversions to overcome New York’s 5-0 halftime lead built on a breakaway try from Gareth Stoppani.
Denver leveled the table less than two minutes into the second half by methodically working the ball into the attacking end. A couple of Old Blue penalties at the breakdown put New York on notice, and DeAchaval willed his way through a tackle and stretched over the try line for the score. He then converted to make it 7-0.
The Barbos took the lead shortly thereafter when a pass meant for Old Blue’s Derek Lipscomb hit the deck and DeAchaval flyhacked it down the field. He feigned as though he was going to pick the ball up, then toed it past the last New York defender and touched down for his second try. He converted it himself, putting Denver up 14-5.
“Max is unbelievable. He’s the greatest player I could ever have, the greatest captain I could ever have. It makes my job so much easier, because he’s on the guys all the time and he makes the plays when we need it,” said Bokhoven.
“Sometimes I have to tone him back, like that chip kick he tried first half, I was going to kill him, but he redeemed himself. It’s great to have a player like that. He’s such an x-factor. He’s not the fastest guy, not the biggest guy, but he makes every single play.”
Seattle’s game with Chicago was equally intense, though Seattle was never in danger of losing the contest. OPSB opened scoring when Miles Craigwell scooped up a loosed ball, took space down the touch line and deferred to Emosi Vucago, who did his magic and scored the game’s first try. Craigwell had put his hand on the second try by making a break and taking a tackle from Chicago’s last defender at midfield. Beach spun the ball quickly to the outside, and Kellen Gordon was the beneficiary this time, taking it in for the score.
William Rasileka scored the next one all on his own when he powered through a weak arm tackle and easily raced half the field for a try, putting Seattle up 17-0 going into halftime.The Lions finally got on the board when Dan Wright finished off a gritty drive in the try zone in the 10th minute. Converted, the score saw Chicago crawl to within 10. But it was too little, too late, as there wasn’t enough time for the Lions to score twice more. Peter Tiberio nearly got one in at the death, as he tried to outrace Vucago to the try line, but the score wasn’t allowed and the final whistle was sounded.
Seattle came into the tournament the odds-on favorite, with five international players on a roster bolstered with decorated college players and club veterans. Denver, with a roster filled mostly by a hodge podge of unrecognizable college kids, and a few very competitive veterans, wasn’t considered even a dark horse by many. Seattle is looking for its second 7s National Championship in four years, and the Barbarians its first ever.