(San Francisco) Taylor Howden and Justin Boyd each scored twice as Belmont Shore raced past Schuylkill River 37-14 for its second national 7s crown in the past three years.
The match turned on the one-two punch of Boyd's 9th-minute shorthanded try and Ed Pitts' injury-time touchdown, made by a Shalom Suniula tap move just after Schuykill's advantage expired.
Having fallen behind 12-0 on tries by Howden and Boyd, the first-time finalists climbed back into contention behind Dan Wright's chip-and-chase score and the opportunity presented by Howden's yellow card. Yet Belmont went to half ahead 22-7, and through superior speed and use of possession, especially turnover ball, the Southern Californians left no doubt of the second stanza.
The one-sided final belied an tense pair of semis, which saw Belmont erase the (Minneapolis) Youngbloods 17-12 on Howden's 14th-minute score, and the tenacious Philadelphians stave off the high-profile Utah Warriors 24-22.
The upset was costly, however, as Schuylkill gamebreaker Greg Ambrogi injured his shoulder tackling Warrior flyer Maka Unufe. Ambrogi started the championship but lasted just three minutes.
Belmont also narrowly prevailed in its quarterfinal match against the Chicago Lions, the 2007 champs. In a 14-7 contest, Boyd saved a try tracking down Peter Tiberio and then replacement Alex Ross ran the winner in from midfield. Youngbloods too played a wild one, defeating the Woodland Exiles on the game's final play.
The 2011 tournament featured several youthful newcomers, including the Youngbloods and Middlesex, a team primarily comprising collegians from the Boston area. 'Young squads have done well. They could run all day,' Belmont coach James Walker observed after the final.
A year ago, the quarterfinalists comprised Old Puget Sound Beach, the Lions, Belmont, Life University, the Denver Barbarians, Nova, Aspen, and Old White of Atlanta. This year OPSB, the defending champ, failed to emerge from the Pacific Coast qualifier, while Nova, Life, *and* Aspen
, and OMBAC were also missing from the Sheeran Field tournament.
For its part, Belmont deliberately sought to improve team speed after dropping the 2010 final, Walker said, pointing to the addition of Boyd and Ross. Also on the roster: San Diego State All-American Duncan Kelm.
Along the same lines, four of the tournament's six referees were under the age of 30. USARFU's referee managers believe that youthful fitness, along with specialized 7s training, in which American officials have been among the world's innovators, will help its best and brightest win overseas appointments.
In the consolation rounds, the Warriors overwhelmed Youngbloods 26-7 for third place; the Chicago Lions throttled Hawaii Marist 40-7 for the plate title; and San Francisco Golden Gate downed Boston 22-5 to win the bowl.
Saturday in Toronto, unforced errors cost the US a 28-22 loss to Canada. In a seesaw match, the US rallied from a 7-0 deficit to lead 15-10 lead to half, but fumbled away a try and also missed a penalty goal from in front of the posts. Todd Clever's second try, at 77 minutes, brought the contest to within 3 before a final Maple Leaf penalty closed out the game.
'There were plenty of positives.... Our scrum was very solid and our lineout fired well for the most part. We scored some good tries, and with more time together, the team cohesiveness will only improve,' coach Eddie O'Sullivan said in a press release.
The Maple Leafs retain the Can-Am Trophy, which was not contested a season ago for the first time since it's founding in 1977.
2011 7s Championship: Belmont Shore 37 Schuylkill River 14
Tries: Justin Boyd (2), Taylor Howden (2), Ed Pitts, Alex Ross, Riaan Hamilton
Conversion: Shalom Suniula
Gareth Williams (Eddie McKenna) Riaan Hamilton, Taylor Howden, Shalom Suniula, Peter Sio (captain), Ed Pitts, Justin Boyd (Alex Ross)
Tries: Dan Wright (2)
Conversions: Dan Wright (2)
William Knipsher, Pat Boyle, Greg Suellentrop (Michael Burch), Randy Helsman, Greg Ambrogi (Joe Bardwell), Dan Wright, Gavin Blower
Referee: Nick Ricono (Southern California)
Attendance: 800 (estimated)
Canada 28 United States 22
Tries: Jebb Sinclair, Phil Mackenzie, Ed Fairhurst
Conversions: James Pritchard (2)
Penalties: James Pritchard (3)
Tries: Todd Clever (2), Takudzwa Ngwenya
Conversions: Valenese Malifa, Tai Enosa
Penalty: Valenese Malifa