No single player meant more to his team’s success in club 7s this summer than Maximo de Achaval did to the Denver Barbarians. Had the Barbos claimed their first-ever 7s National Championship, the former Colorado All American would have been the MVP of the tournament, but Denver fell one game short, losing to Seattle-OPSB in the final.
If it hadn’t been for de Achaval, the Barbarians wouldn’t have just not been in the National final, (he accounted for all 15 points in Denver’s 14-5 comeback win over Old Blue in the semifinals) they wouldn’t have even been one of the tournament’s 16 competitors.
The Barbos needed to win the West’s final qualifier – at home in Denver – to advance to Nationals. Without some ingenuity by de Achaval, who laid a grubber which resulted in the game-winning try in the tournament final against Glendale, the Barbos would have lost to their cross-town rivals and missed Nationals for the first time in 13 years.
At the beginning of the summer, Denver’s chances of making it back to Nationals seemed as bleak as they have in some time. The Barbarians didn’t secure a single qualification point at the West season opener in The Woodlands, Texas. Regular big-time contributors like Kyle Hitt, Jake Humphrey and Ben Haapapuro weren’t around for the entire summer. Most of the season, in fact, Denver was playing with a very young, green squad filled with local college kids and anchored by de Achaval.
de Achaval was the leader, the play maker, the mentor. He was at every tournament, helping guys like Ben Pinkelman develop from a talented newbie into a very important contributor.
“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,” Denver 7s coach Mark Bokhoven told RUGBYMag back in August.
“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.”
de Achaval has been criticized his entire career for not being a good enough athlete – for not being fast enough, big enough, etc. But when the game’s on the line, few players in America are more clutch that de Achaval. Even playing 15s at the Americas Rugby Championship after Nationals, de Achaval wasn’t impressing coaches at training, but when he actually got on the field and played in a game, he acquitted himself well. As the gutsy gamer always does.