The 2019 Club 7s campaign has come to a close, and at the end of it all it's the San Diego Surfers on the women's side and Washington Athletic Club on the men's side that take home the spoils.
The tournament could be deemed nothing but a success all the way around.
To begin with, the facilities in Kansas City were of the highest quality, and it's a big thank you to Sporting KC for opening up their pitches at Swope Soccer Park for the tournament.
The atmosphere around the complex all weekend could be described as festive; fans from every team got along, and everyone was happy just to be surrounded by good rugby and good people over the course of two days. Another big thanks goes out to the Kansas City Blues for playing great hosts to all throughout the weekend.
There could be a dozen more thank you's to go around in recognition of the work done to make the tournament run smoothly, but ultimately the biggest thanks goes to the men and women playing and coaching out here in Kansas City. The standard of play was very good, and the parity in the competition made for a really fun weekend of rugby.
Here's how the two victors took care of business:
The San Diego Surfers won each of their pool play games, but it wasn't without some stiff competition. They fought through a tough pool of ARPTC White, NOVA, and the Atlanta Harlequins to go 3-0 on Day 1. They won fairly comfortably in all three games, but they were made to work for it. Perhaps dealing with some challenges in pool play is what set them up for their run to the cup on Day 2.
Their Sunday action kicked off with a quarter final matchup against Washington Athletic Club, and this was a game where the Surfers were really tested. Washington got on the board early, and San Diego had to come from behind to take control. Back and forth the two sides went, but eventually the class of San Diego carried them through to the semifinals with a 26-19 win.
In the semis, the Surfers matched up with the Gladiatrix of Life West, a team loaded with talent and host of Eagles in the roster.
San Diego once again fell behind early, but they were able to clamp down on defense and frustrate Life West's attack the remainder of the game. A try at the end by the Gladiatrix brought the score to 19-14, but aside from that it was a suffocating defensive outing from the Surfers.
In the final, San Diego met a familiar foe, the Berkeley All Blues. The All Blues were dominant in defense all weekend, blanking each of their first three opponents before allowing just five points in the quarters and ten in semis.
The match started off much in the way the Surfers' previous two games did, with their opponents taking the early lead. A back and forth first half saw Berkeley head into the break up 12-7, but San Diego didn't panic.
The Surfers opened up the second stanza with a quick try to take the lead before tacking on another with just a few minutes remaining to push the lead out to 21-12. From there, San Diego locked the All Blues down until the final whistle and claimed their second straight club 7s title.
For the Surfers, a number of players put in great shifts all tournament, including Jamie Albarelli, Rachel Griendling, Megan Foster, and Tiegan MacDonald. However, the difference in the end was Kayla Lawson. The speedster was absolutely phenomenal this weekend, especially in knockout play.
Lawson has speed like few else in women's rugby, and her five tries in the last two games provided the spark San Diego needed to bring home the cup for the second year running. She also was an important factor in defense, chasing down numerous ballcarriers on the weekend that might have thought they were heading for the endzone.
Megan Foster's kicking game was also superb. She landed three conversions from out wide in the championship, the last of which was a real backbreaker for Berkeley's spirits. San Diego were once again deserved winners this year, and kudos to the Surfers program on their big weekend.
Washington Athletic Club may have gotten off on the wrong foot this weekend, but they didn't let their opening-game loss to Park City derail their hopes for a national championship.
A 19-12 defeat in the opener might have exposed some things WAC needed to work on, and the men from Seattle certainly made the necessary adjustments moving forward.
A 24-0 win against Mystic River got them back on track, setting up an all-important showdown with NAV 7s to determine who would advance to the cup quarterfinals.
In that last pool game with NAV, the class and experience of WAC started to shine through. They made life difficult for the NAV attack, and took advantage of opportunities to coast to a 26-5 win and a spot in the quarterfinals. It was starting to become clear that to beat WAC, someone would have to bring their absolute best and limit their mistakes to have a shot.
Day 2 began much as Day 1 ended, with WAC turning in a wonderful quarterfinal performance en route to a commanding 24-0 win over a very good Chicago Lions team. Chicago had the lions' share of possession in the first half, but some staunch Washington defense kept them from scoring.
With limited ball in the opening half, WAC was able to put in a score, and they led 5-0 at the intermission.
As the game progressed, WAC seemed the fitter team and they put it on the Lions, tacking on another three tries to end the game and move into a semifinal matchup with Old Blue.
The semifinal between WAC and Old Blue was hugely physical, with neither side willing to give up an inch. WAC got on the board first, but Old Blue, playing a man down with a yellow card, responded with a try of its own just before the halftime whistle to bring the score to 5-5 at the break.
The second half was just as defensive as the first, and the scores remained deadlocked until right at the end when WAC scored in the corner just 40 seconds from time. The conversion was missed and it was 10-5 with just one last play remaining for Old Blue to make a comeback.
Old Blue took the high, hanging kickoff well out of the air and made a long break up the right sideline, eventually being dragged down just inside the 22. After a number of hard-hitting phases, Old Blue found themselves just five meters from the line. However, a pick and go right beneath the posts was met hard by two Washington defenders and the ball squirted loose. The final whistle blew and WAC was on to the final.
In the championship match, WAC faced off against Life West. The Gladiators came out hot, scoring the opening try just a couple minutes into the game for a 7-0 lead.
But, as they'd done all day, WAC stayed poised and didn't panic. They continued to play good team ball and dotted down two tries before half for a 12-7 lead.
In the second half, WAC took total control. They scored two more tries, and shut down any kind of attack Life West threw at them. In the end, WAC claimed a deserved 24-7 victory in the title.
It was a remarkable turn around from their first game against Park City, and it was a real team effort that got the job done. A great number of faces chipped in to make it happen, including Tommy Hunkin-Clark, Dion Crowder, Scott Dean, and Shane Moore.
The main ingredients though were the veterans, Peter Tiberio and Mat Turner. The two Seattle Seawolves led the way with their actions for WAC. Whether it was scoring tries, setting up teammates, making tackles, or directing traffic with their voices, these guys were doing it all.
It was a wonderful weekend of rugby on the back of a wonderful summer of Club 7s, and congratulations to the San Diego Surfers and the Washington Athletic Club for capping off the long summer with championship performances.