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The North American Lions took third in the international U19 boys bracket of the Dubai Sevens last week, going 4-1-1 against a long list of talented teams.
The Lions went 1-0-1 on Thursday's opening day of competition and then added one more win on Friday to make the cup knockout rounds. In the playoffs, the Lions got to exact revenge with a 24-7 win over the team that tied them in pool play, the Centurion Warriors, to reach day three and the semifinals.
On Saturday, the Lions jumped out to an early advantage but lost a hard-fought semifinal 19-12 to a North West Barbarians team out of South Africa. A large and talented side, the Barbarians proved a tough challenge for the Lions, who took a quick lead 5-0 with Eric Naposki swerving through traffic to score. The second try for the Lions came off a penalty try when a North West player purposefully slowed play on the try line.
This put the Lions up 12-0 with halftime approaching. The second half was a dogfight, with North West eventually tying the game 12-12.
With time winding down, the Lions took the restart and looked to be advancing when a grubber kick bounced backward off a North West player, who picked it up and ran in for the game-winning try.
Following the loss, the Lions moved on to the bronze medal game against a tough Cape Town team. Although the Lions never trailed, Cape Town tied it up twice before a final try by speedster Jesse Capriotti put a nail in the Lions' 17-12 win.
The Lions only loss went to the eventual champs, the North West Barbarians.
Another compilation team from North America, the North Americans Barbarians, started strong but didn't finish well, losing to Central South Africa and Victorian Barbarians on the final day to finish seventh. However, it didn't help that they had to play eventual finalists Westville Gryphons twice.
For the Lions, the concept of a team of American and Canadian players coming together to play high-level sevens was a success.
With a strong coaching staff behind the squad, and a talented group of players who understand what it takes to come together quickly, finishing in third place in Dubai was a strong showing.
NA Lions and NA Barbarians Results
THURSDAY, NOV. 30
Pool Play: NA Lions 29, KZN Barbarians 7
Pool Play: NA Lions 19, Centurion Warriors 19
Pool Play: NA Barbarians 26, Peregrines 17
Pool Play: Westville Gryphons 19, NA Barbarians 15
FRIDAY, DEC. 1
Pool Play: NA Lions 29, Olymp 5
Pool Play: NA Barbarians 38, Mauritian Barbarians 5
Cup Quarterfinal: NA Lions 24, Centurion Warriors 7
Cup Quarterfinal: Westville Gryphons 24, NA Barbarians 12
SATURDAY, DEC. 2
5th-Place Semi: Central SA 26, NA Barbarians 17
Cup Semifinal: North West Barbarians 19, NA Lions 12
7th/8th: Victorian Barbarians 20, NA Barbarians 12
3rd/4th: NA Lions 17, Cape Barbarians 12
Cup Final: North West Barbarians 24, Westville Gryphons 19