Army Takes Top Military Honors, British Army Secures Overall Tournament Victory
Glendale’s annual RugbyTown Sevens Tournament took place the last weekend of August, and alongside the Bruises and Brews Beer Festival, the event not only drew national and international fans, but for the seventh year running once again proved that Infinity Park is the beating heart of American rugby. Twenty domestic and international rugby teams competed in more than sixty matches over the weekend, each vying for the $10,000 winner take all championship purse. Representative teams from all five branches of the U.S. Military, as well as the British Army and Royal Armoured Corps, competed alongside participating teams from the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean.
Reaching fans in nearly sixty countries across the globe, this year’s tournament saw a 22% increase in new viewers, as well as a nearly 25% increase in viewer hours – rugby’s meteoric growth in the United States, fueled by events like RugbyTown 7s, shows no signs of slowing. The tournament has historically invited and featured new teams and talent, and 2018 was no exception. Showcasing both new faces and seasoned veterans, the history and world-class facilities at Infinity Park have and will continue to draw teams from far and wide. The Bruises and Brews Beer Festival, which was held over two days for the first time in 2018, celebrates local Colorado brewers and consistently demonstrates the age-old adage: beer and rugby – better together.
Pool play kicked off at 11am on Friday August 24 and continued well into the evening. In addition to the ultimate winner-take-all tournament purse, U.S. Military teams competed to set the stage for separate Military Championship honors on Sunday. The U.S. Army team ultimately defended their multi-year champion status, having won every year since 2013. The action was hot, humid, and fast-paced. Conditions improved to some extent over the course of the weekend’s play, but every team had to contend with the shining Colorado sun and playing at elevation – a factor that proved difficult for many visiting squads. Competition was noticeably more closely matched on the second day of pool play, with visiting teams likely becoming more accustomed to fast-paced sevens rugby action at a mile above sea level. Sunday saw the conclusion of the RugbyTown 7s at Infinity Park, the final day of the seventh annual tournament reaching its exciting crescendo.
This year’s tournament was characterized not just by the exceptional play from the domestic and international teams, the cheering fans, and the party atmosphere of the two-day Bruises and Brews Beer Festival, but also by the Colorado weather. High temperatures, unseasonable humidity, and smoky conditions from wildfires in the western U.S. made the fast-paced play even more difficult – not to mention thunderstorms threatening game stoppages. Teams coming from overseas or from lower elevations clearly struggled to acclimate to Glendale’s mile-high elevation and the accompanying reduction in oxygen: the setting of this year’s tournament helped separate winners from losers.
Sunday Wrap Up – Tournament Results
Shield Final – Sacramento Eagles Win Shield Over Washington Athletic Club
The Colorado weather once again proved a factor in the final day of the 2018 RugbyTown 7s Tournament, multiple lighting delays postponing the competition for the RT7s Shield. In spite of the possibility of storms, conditions were cooler to begin the contest, though strong breezes complicated conversion kick attempts. The Sacramento Eagles piled on an early offensive burst that Washington Athletic Club was ultimately unable to match. The Seattle team rallied in the second half of play, but the California side took home the shield with a 24-12 victory.
Paula Buitu of the Eagles had nothing but compliments for the team’s first-time tournament experience: “It was fantastic and well organized. We were proud to participate, especially as a first-year team. We came in battling from the first day, and it’s a great moment for us to be Shield Champions. It’s one we won’t forget.”
Bowl Final – Misfits Best Griffins in Bowl Final
The Dark n’ Stormy Misfits took down the Southern California Griffins in a tightly contested match that went to the wire. SoCal made a late effort to overcome the Misfits but were unable to claim the win. The RT7s Bowl will remain in Colorado with a deserving first-year Misfits team.
Plate Final – U.S. Army Take Down Denver 7s Selects, Secure RT7s Plate Victory
The U.S. Army battled the local Denver 7s Selects in a close fought and entertaining match for the tournament Plate Title. Army proved too strong for the mile high side, securing a 26-17 win to take the Plate, and adding to an already impressive tournament showing that included a sixth-consecutive U.S. Armed Forces Championship.
Mark Drown, of the U.S. Army 7s side, had high praise for the tournament: “Without question, Rugbytown 7s is the Premier rugby sevens event in North America. The facilities, organization, live stream, and color commentary are all world class,” he said. “The Army’s experience at Glendale has been exceptional. Capturing the Plate was a great culmination for us after a long tournament. We look forward to defending our six consecutive [Armed Forces] championships in the years to come.”
U.S. Army Sergeants Dacoda Worth and Michael Melendez-Rivera, who both play on the Army 7s team, were equally happy with the squad’s tournament experience: “We all know to take nothing for granted,” said Worth. “We all play for each other, and off the pitch we continue to have amazing relationships even though we are all in various locations.” Melendez-Rivera added that RugbyTown is an event the team looks forward to year after year: “It’s an amazing facility with amazing fans. We’re blessed to be able to defend our title and represent our nation. Team member Captain Aaron Retter sums the experience: “Earning our sixth title and the Plate Championship feels absolutely incredible. We play not only for the name on the front of our jersey, but for the flag.”
Third Place – Collegiate All-Americans Take Third Place Overall In 2018 RugbyTown 7s
Hot on the heels of the contest for the Plate, the Collegiate All-Americans met the Ramblin’ Jesters for the honor of third place in this year’s tournament. With tremendous showings from both teams throughout the weekend, the match was highly anticipated and a crowd favorite as Sunday play wound down. A tight fight saw the young Americans take the third place spot in the 2018 RT7s tournament with a 24-14 win. Breakout stars in this year’s competition, the all Americans overcame the crowd favorite Ramblin’ Jesters to take third place overall.
All-Americans Head Coach Steve Lewis was as impressed as anyone in the stands with his team’s performance: “We made great progress: a great performance by young American players in a field littered with professionals,” he said. “Once again it was a terrific experience for the Collegiate All-Americans and we are grateful indeed to everyone at the City of Glendale for making it possible.”
Cup Final – British Army Secures First RugbyTown 7s Cup Victory, Take Home $10,000 Purse – Favored Tiger Rugby Finish Weekend As Runners Up In Hard-Fought Three Days Of Sevens Play
British Army met Tiger Rugby on the Infinity Park pitch on the evening of Sunday August 26 to decide who would earn the 2018 RT7s Championship in the weekend’s final game. Evenly matched, the two squads played a physical first half. Vying for the tournament’s winner-take-all, $10,000 purse, Tiger went into the break with a 5-0 lead over British Army.
Coming off the half time rest, the hard-hitting action continued. The British Army side dotted down early and converted to give their team a 7-5 lead, but the tough play wasn’t over. In a defensive second-half shootout, the British Army proved their mettle, securing a tight but definitive 7-5 victory. The U.K. team took home not just the five-digit prize purse, but top honors as Cup winners and the overall 2018 RugbyTown 7s Champions.
RugbyTown 7s epitomizes Glendale’s eponymous title: RugbyTown USA. In 2018, the tournament drew talent from near and far, attracting U.S. military teams, college athletes, and rugby players and fans from across the globe. Embracing Colorado’s seemingly insatiable thirst for craft beer, festivities also included the two-day Bruises and Brews Beer Festival.
As in years past, the competition was fierce, the crowds large and fanatic, and the growth of rugby as a mainstream sport in the United States palpable. Champions were crowned, cold mugs downed, and history once again written for rugby sevens in America.