The level of play impresses.
GLENDALE, Colo. – The high-flying and fast-paced action of Rugby 7s returned to Infinity Park on Friday, kicking off the 5th Edition of the Serevi RugbyTown Sevens (SRS) Tournament. Twenty-eight matches between 20 teams in four pools, all competing for a shot at the $10,000 winner-take-all purse, highlighted Day 1 of the events at SRS.
For the second year in a row, U.S. Army (3-0-0) and U.S. Air Force (2-1-0) came out swinging as frontrunners for the Military Championship (Pool A). Seeking their fourth-straight Military title, U.S. Army looked dominant, particularly in their 41-0 thumping of their Air Force rivals, but Air Force bounced back with wins over U.S. Navy and U.S. Marines. The Falcons sit second in Pool A with seven points in the table.
“Our goal is to win the Armed Forces Rugby 7s Championship and then advance and win in the Cup finals of the SRS,” All-Army sports representative Anthony Poore said.
Pool B featured the hosting Glendale Raptors, playing alongside Bermuda, Black Dragons, Royal Air Force, and all-star selection SoCal Griffins, a new addition to this year’s tournament. The Raptors and Griffins rose to the top of the lot early, winning each of their pool games.
Glendale opened up its tournament with a 24-7 victory over Bermuda to shake off the rust.
“The boys looked a little bit nervous but we managed to win that game quite comfortably despite a few nervous errors,” said Raptors head coach Andre Snyman.
The Raptors followed up that effort with a 15-5 edging of the Royal Air Force Spitfires.
“It was a very physical game and really tested our defense,” Snyman said of the match against the RAF “We didn’t get a lot of opportunities to attack but we managed to score opportunistic tries.”
Those victories set up a head-to-head between the two pool leaders in Pool B. After outscoring their opponents by a combined 86-12 in their first two pool games, the Griffins quickly jumped out to a 19-0 lead over Glendale in their third match of the day. But the Raptors bounced back, scoring 19 unanswered to end the match in a 19-19 draw. By the end of the day, both Glendale and SoCal were able to take eight points away in the table.
“It was really tough,” Snyman said of the match. “They’re a loaded team with some [USA Eagles]. I’m really proud of our players. They showed a lot of character in the second half and defended well. I’m excited to go into the second day with the character they built in that last game.”
In Pool C the defending SRS Champion Denver 7s again looked like the side to beat, opening their tournament with a 33-19 win over traveling 7s side Atlantis and a more closely contested 28-21 victory over Atavus. Denver closed out Day 1 with a 28-12 victory over Rugby Utah to lead the pool with nine points. British Army also led the way in Pool C, winning all three of their pool games from Day 1, closing out the evening with a 26-14 win over Atavus to share the lead with nine points in the table.
Ramblin Jesters, an elite invitational side out of the U.K. leads Pool D after the first day, with three wins and nine points to their name. International touring side Tiger Rugby closed out the action on Day 2 with a 24-12 victory over Texas-based Negro y Azul, moving into second place in Pool D with the victory and seven points in the table.
An interview with Coach David Mobbs Smith from the Ramblin Jesters.
By the end of the first day’s events at Serevi RugbyTown Sevens, some teams experienced heartbreak, but no fans were left disappointed.
“The competition has really increased this year,” Snyman said. “The quality of the players has increased and everyone is talking about the quality of the games, which is really good.”
Pool Play continues Saturday with early morning rounds kicking off at Noon followed by the Military Championship (4:30 p.m.). Following the conclusion of that match, SRS Bowl and Cup Quarterfinals will round out the afternoon and evening action on Saturday.
Also highlighting Saturday’s events is the Bruises and Brews Beerfest, which will take place from 12-4 p.m. on the Festival Plaza, adjacent to Infinity Park. Twenty breweries will showcase their top brews, along with a few distilleries and a couple terrific hard ciders. Tickets for Glendale’s Bruises & Brews Beerfest are available for $35 online at glendalebeerfest.com or at the Infinity Park Stadium.
With a ticket to the Beerfest, fans also gain admittance to the 2016 Serevi RugbyTown Sevens tournament on Saturday.