Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The Pacific Coast Grizzlies and the SoCal Griffins claimed the Women’s and Men’s All-Star National Championship respectively at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista this past Saturday. The Pacific Coast Grizzlies defeated the USA Developmental team 34-17 to win the 2011 Emirates Airline USA Rugby Women’s All-Star National Championship. The SoCal Griffins won the Men’s Championship, beating the West Mustangs 19-7 in the final.
Peter Sio (Belmont Shore) and Nathalie Marchino (Berkeley All-Blues) were named Most Valuable Players in the tournament.
USA Rugby sevens head coaches, Ric Suggit (women) and Al Caravelli used the tournament as a scouting vehicle for the upcoming international seasons. Suggitt will be looking towards his team’s tentative fixtures in 2011 and Caravelli with an eye on the 2011 Pan-Am Games in October.
In the men’s final, a very physical first half saw West with a 7-0 lead at halftime. Hunter Leland hit a gap at pace and scored straight under the sticks capitalizing on SoCal being out of rhythm and unable to match the West’s intensity.
A few small mistakes for the West halted any momentum they started to attain in the second half and SoCal smelled blood in the water.
Fluidity crept back into SoCal’s game in the second half, spurred by a nice score by Apelu Soialo, but a highlight reel try by Ed McKenna was an ominous sign that SoCal was regaining its composure in the most lethal of ways.
MVP Peter Sio was rewarded for his solid distribution and aggressive defense with a try in the final moments and kicked the ball straight out of bounds with his conversion attempt to enthusiastically seal the victory.
Tries: Sio, Soialo, McKenna
Cons: Sio (2)
Cons: de Achaval
The USA Developmental side, as you would hope, improved with every game in the All-Star tournament. Young stars like Rebekah Siebach and Kaelene Lundstrum were electric, but the experience and flat out talent of the Pacific Coast Grizzlies edged the younger players and gave them a wealth of experiential learning in the final.
Speedster Nathalie Marchino was remarkable, but not only because of her pace. She showcased her defensive awareness and knowledge of sevens to lead her team to what turned out to be a decisive victory over the USA Developmental side.
Phoebe Boone made a series of electric runs and ferocious fends in the middle of the field to force the USA to pay close attention to her, often leaving the outside backs with lots of space and unenviable match ups. Boone had a strong supporting cast too as Kelly Griffin and San Juanita Moreno were fantastic.
In the end, Pacific Coast’s ability to read the field and exploit won out, but both teams exhibited fluid team play. The Grizzlies were too hungry and too experienced for the young national team hopefuls.
Pacific Coast 34
Tries: Marchino (3), Griffin, Boone, Cabrera
Cons: Griffin (2)
USA Developmental 17
Tries: Siebach (2), Rozier
As rugby sevens will debut in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, both USA coaches used the Olympic Training Center to familiarize new crops of young players to the Olympic training environment. In addition to the enormously talented group of men’s and women’s athletes representing their Territorial Unions, two age-grade teams competed in the tournament to round out the field in both the men’s and women’s competitions. Suggitt and Caravelli work collaboratively to develop young players so they are prepared for the international ranks.