Denver, CO. – 24 June 2017: The Rugby Utah Selects 7s team showed grit to crawl back from behind and win the final against hosts Denver Barbarians. The win takes them one step closer to qualifying for the National Club 7s tournament where they aim to defend their title.
Coming from behind and fighting back were a theme for the Rugby Utah Selects side in Denver on Saturday. In the team’s first game they fell to an early 5-0 deficit against Kansas City Blues 2nd team. Staying composed and leading from the front, former Eagles John Cullen and Anthony Welmers contributed two tries a piece as the Selects rallied back to win the first contest 45-5.
In their second match, the Selects beat Black Dragons 43-0 to set up a seeding match-up against hosts, the Denver Barbarians. It was a tough start for the visitors. Anthony Welmer was sent off early and the Barbarians took a 17-0 lead. Welmer worked hard to make up for his time in the bin and closed the gap, but the Barbo’s lead 24-7 at the half. Vern Ale scored Utah’s only try in the second half, and at full time the score was 34-14.
In the semi-final, the Selects played Kansas City, Pool B winners. Kansas City rushed to a 14-0 lead by capitalizing on a couple early mistakes by the Selects. Captain Don Pati lead the comeback fending defenders for a great individual try and setting up teammate Zach Webber to tie it up. The Blues took the lead back, briefly, but Josh Anderson squared it up again with one minute left. Pati shredded through the Kansas City defense to close the match and secure a rematch with the Denver Barbarians in the final.
Don Pati said, “We got knocked down early, and to bounce back to win the semi final was a huge boost for the team. It showed a lot about the character of each and every one my team mates. I’m super proud of the boys”
In the final match of the day, the Selects faced the Denver Barbarians Premier squad, the only team that had beaten them on the day. The Barbarians had a strong squad anchored by Eagle 7s star Ben Pinkelman, Ke’Von Williams and Glendale Raptor’s sharp shooting kicker Maximo De Achaval. The Barbarians controlled possession from the kickoff and took advantage of lackluster tackles to score in the first minute. Welmers stole the ball off a line out in the Barbarians 22 then Joseph Nicholls’ quick thinking and shifty feet carried him to a score under the posts. The Barbarians fired back quickly and took a 12-7 lead into halftime.
Early in the second stanza the Barbo’s extended their lead after capitalizing on some Utah handling errors and they were up by 12 with five minutes to go. From the next restart, Fijian flyer Kisa Kalougata made a 50 meter break to score and Jared Whippy made a crucial conversion from the sideline bringing them within five.With just two minutes left, the Barbo’s swung the ball wide and stretched the Selects defence. Denver’s winger crossed the line with 2 minutes left to take a 24-14 lead.
With 48 seconds to play and the match all but out-of hand, West Valley Lion Vern Ale took the kick off and lead a charge down the field resulting in a try from BYU flanker Jackson Kaka. With only injury time to play, the Barbos took control of the restart, but a great defensive effort by the Selects gave them possession and one last shot at the game. From the line out Utah put together several phases and drew in the Barbo’s defense with strong runs by Ale and Kaka. Finally, some quick hands gave Welmers an outside edge on Pinkelman, which he took and put the Selects ahead 26 – 24.
Reflecting on the team’s performance Welmer said “it was a great day overall. It was nice to see the boys bounce back from a kick in the mouth earlier in the day and win the tournament. There’s a great group of men here, and everyone played with heart and passion”
Coach Ben Nicholls also said “We have to start somewhere and today was that place. It was not the prettiest at times but luckily there are no pictures, just numbers on the scoreboard.”
The two stand out players for this tournament had to be Anthony Welmers and Don Pati. About these two Nicholls said “There were a lot of good individual moments when it counted. Anthony Welmers was outstanding today and deserves mention as our man of the tournament. He helped lead from the front and with Don Pati produced the magic when we needed it.”
The Selects side now return to Utah for some rest, and to prepare for the Heartland 7s in Kansas City on July 8th. This weekend the Selects squad enter two sides to play in UVU’s 7s tournament in Orem.
Denver 7s results:
Game 1: RU Selects 45 – KC Blues 5
Game 2: RU Selects 43 – Black Dragon 0
Game 3: RU Selects 14 – Denver Barbarians 34
Semi-final: RU Selects 28 – Kansas City 21
Final: RU Selects 26 – Denver Barbarians 24