In his nearly two decades of playing the game of rugby, Fiji international Waisale Serevi became known around the globe as the “King of Sevens” for his prowess in the fast paced, seven-a-side version of the game.
Therefore, it’s fittingly appropriate that the tournament which bears his namesake, the Serevi RugbyTown Sevens (SRS) has become the crown jewel of sevens tournaments in North America.
For the fourth-straight year, Glendale, Colo. the city that’s become synonymous with the moniker RugbyTown USA hosted the three-day event (Aug. 14-16) and with 17 teams from around the world once again competing for a $10,000 cash purse, the event proved to be as enticing as ever for players and fans alike.
“This is all we’ve waited for. This is as good as it gets in North America and it’s some of the best rugby around the globe,” Glendale Mayor Mike Dunafon said of this year’s competition. “It’s what makes the Serevi RugbyTown Sevens such an important tournament. It is the essence of the future of the game of rugby.”
Following a disappointing campaign in which the Raptors fell short of their goal of qualification for this year’s Men’s Club 7s Nationals, the local club entered the tournament with something to prove not only to fans and opponents, but to themselves. By the weekend’s end, the team felt they had proved their point, stringing together competitive showings and results en-route to a fourth place finish in the field of 17.
“It was a great show of character. For us to be a local club side and to take fourth place, I’m happy with that,” Glendale Raptors head coach Andre Snyman said. “We’re disappointed but holding our head high. I’m very proud of them for the way we played.”
It was a quarterfinal loss to eventual tournament champions and crosstown rivals, the Denver 7s, on the final day of the tournament which would derail the Raptors’ chances to win this year’s SRS Cup and the prize money that went with it.
Denver defeated a team which also bore the Serevi name, the Serevi Selects, 28-24 in an exciting final match, which proved to be an emotional win for Denver captain Maximo DeAchaval.
“We stuck together, we played together, and we finished together. We did everything together. My boys did it.” Denver captain Maximo DeAchaval said postgame. “[Serevi Selects] have great players and are great guys. We love playing them, hate playing them but it’s always a pleasure. We’re pretty happy.”
This year’s edition of the tournament also featured a new element. An inaugural high school tournament alongside the senior action, with the Glendale Raptors U-18s competing for the first time with seven other junior teams. The junior Raptors fared decently, with three wins and 12 points in the table. But it was visitors Atlantis who would win the High School Championship, defeating the Utah Lions 31-26 in the final.
Opportunities to watch local rugby sides compete against all-star and select sides from around the country and international locals wasn’t the only draw for fans to come out to Infinity Park. The Military Championship, which pits teams from each branch of the U.S. Military, has always been a fan favorite and staple of SRS.
Teams from each branch of the armed forces competed for positioning in Pool A, and after Day 1 of the tournament, Army and Air Force rose to the top. On Day 2, Army would defeat Air Force twice, 22-12 to win the pool and 43-12 to win the Military Final, marking the Black Knight’s third Military Championship in the four years of the tournament.
“It’s definitely our goal to win the Armed Forces Championship. Every year it’s a new team and a new competition so it’s just about 12 guys coming together as part of the All-Army family and getting the result that we wanted,” said Army team captain Andrew Locke.
The awards didn’t stop there. In addition to the SRS Cup, $10,000 purse, High School and Military Championships, teams also fought for the SRS Plate, Bowl and Shield awards.
Northeast Academy defeated Negro Y Azul 26-19 to win the Plate. Atlantis surprised the USA Collegiate All-Americans to win the Bowl by a score of 22-17. In the Shield Final, dark horses Bermuda also put on a show to beat Mexico Serpientes by a score of 19-15.
“It’s wonderful to have this kind of talent brought together for us to play against,” Atlantis coach Chris Ryan said. “The tournament is fantastic.”
That particular match was one for seventh place in the tournament, but it was a true indication of the field’s quality from top to bottom, pitting the tournament newcomers against the 2013 SRS Champions.
“When you play a group like that, you’re playing the best of the best,” Ryan said of the All-Americans. “There’s a lot of future USA Eagles in that group and it was an honor to play against them.”
And with the competition becoming better and better each year, the anticipation will only grow stronger in the coming months while fans of rugby in North America anxiously await the fifth edition of the Serevi RugbyTown Sevens.
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