The Men’s Experts and Women’s Loonies Crowned Champions at the Inaugural PR7s Tournament
Men Round 1
Headliners vs Loonies
Shane Moore can always say he was the first player to score in PR7s history after the longtime Washington state speedster blazed down the sideline for the opening try of the opening game before 30 seconds had ticked off the clock to give the Loonies a 7-0 lead.
The Headliners didn’t panic and a nice break from Chris Turori saw him dish to Peter Tiberio for the answering try. Tiberio grabbed his leg and seemed to pick up an injury, but he stuck around to kick the conversion and keep playing. Tim Stanfill sidestepped his way to the go-ahead try and it was 14-7 until just before halftime, when Chris Mattina bulled through to inch the Loonies to within two at 14-12.
In the second half, Gavan D’Amore Morrison almost scored off the kickoff. The D’Amore was held up in-goal but the Headliners kept up the pressure and eventually Stanfill was over from short range.
The Headliners cruised from there.
Tries: Peter Tiberio 2, Tim Stanfill 2, Luc Scheck
Convs: Peter Tiberio 5
Tries: Shane Moore, Chris Mattina 2
Convs: Steve Tomasin, Carmen Consolino
Locals vs Loggerheads
The Locals players reflected their team’s train-oriented nickname: big, powerful, and tough to stop. They showed that in the opening seconds with Cole Zarcone taking on a couple of Loggerheads tacklers before Matai Leuta picked up and tossed a pass to Jojo Tikoisuva, who powered over.
But the Loggerheads had skills, too, and a jackle in the tackle by Martin Iosefo led to a penalty—Iosefo tapped quickly, took off to near midfield, and fed Kevon Williams for a 55-meter jaunt to the posts.
Both teams had more chances in the first half but made silly errors that gave the momentum to the other team. So it remained 7-5 Loggerheads into the second half.
Intense defensive pressure from the Locals pushed the Loggerheads back almost to their tryline, Key plays from Kevon Williams and Lance Williams got them out of trouble, and some probing runs from Iosefo and D’Montae Noble set up space out wide. Iosefo’s between-the-legs pass to Devin Short set the Nevadan free to race in for the try. Cian Barry hit the tough conversion and the Locals needed a head of steam to come back.
Penalties and dropped balls killed any chance for the Locals to get out of their 22, and eventually Kevon Williams took an offload from Lance Williams, sidestepped a couple of times, and put the game away.
With time expired Patrick Regan found a huge gap to charge through for the Locals (getting a huge from his former UCLA teammate Barry on the other team). But it was too little too late as the Loggerheads won it 19-12.
Tries: Kevon Williams 2, Devin Short
Convs: Cian Barry 2
Tries: Jojo Tikoisuva, Patrick Regan
Convs: Tai Enosa
Women Round 1
Loggerheads vs Headliners
The Loggerheads held the ball for almost all of the opening two minutes but couldn’t break through. Finally when the Headliners secured possession the ball was sent out to Kristen Thomas who fended off one tackler and sped on for 55 meters to score under the sticks.
Determined to defend better, the Loggerheads laid in some hits to stop Katherine Johnson and Naya Tapper. But the result was, ultimately, the same, as quick hands set up Thomas to fight her way to the corner. Looking to find a way to stretch the defense the Loggerheads unleashed a wide passing game to unleash Rachel Pau’u down the sideline. She tried to tiptoe the touchline but cruelly stepped on the line, which negated her try and the teams entered halftime with the Headliners up 12-0.
But flinging the ball around with abandon worked nicely for the women in green in the second half with a speculative pass from Salote Tausinga helping to put Jaz Gray over in the opening moments of the second half. But they couldn’t find that magic again as the Headliners as mistakes led to some maddeningly slow scrums and allowed the Headliners to just close it out.
Tries: Kris Thomas 2
Convs: Alena Olsen
Tries: Jaz Gray
Experts vs Loonies
Power and deception opened up the Loonies’ account within a minute of their first game in Memphis. Halllie Taufoou started it all with a lineout steal. Nana Fa’avesi pushed off two defenders, dummied past another, crashed into a fourth, and then popped the ball back to Taufoou, who displayed a lovely show-and-go before opening up to go 50 meters to score a brilliant try.
A miscue from the Experts set up the next try as a dropped pass allowed Alev Kelter to nab it and pass off to Sarah Levy on the outside for the simplest of scores. That combination worked in a more structured way moments later as the imposing Kelter drew enough attention for her to feed Levy for a jaunt down the sideline and a 17-0 Loonies lead.
A massive run from Sui A’au took the Experts down the sideline, but Kelter was equal to the task. Now the Experts were in the Loonies’ 22 and after a penalty Kristi Kirshe tapped and steamrolled two for the try. She paid for it, though, picking up an injury in the process.
The Loonies weren’t too fazed and in the second half a simple switch move put Kelter through for her first. Her conversion went in off the upright and the Loonies were in control.
With just over a minute remaining Amanda Berta snagged the ball from a tackled player and took off for the Experts’ second try. The Experts came close as time expired, but the Loonies really had the game in hand 24-10.
Tries: Haillie Taufoou, Sarah Levy 2, Alev Kelter
Convs: Alev Kelter 2
Tries: Kristie Kirshe
Round 2 Men
Loonies vs Team
This game could hardly have started worse for the Loonies as their opening kickoff went out on the full, giving the Team a free kick at the center of the field. Christian Rodriguez quickly attracted the attention of two defenders, leaving a tiny gap for Aren Martin to charge through. Rodriguez hit him with a perfect pass and Martin returned the favor when Devereaux Ferris swooped in to make a tackle. Under the posts for Rodriguez and Tom Isherwood converted to make it 7-0.
A penalty for not releasing in the tackle gave the Team the ball again, Rodriguez tapped quickly after another Loonies penalty, Rodriguez to James Vaifale to Aaron Cummings put Harley Wheeler in at the corner.
Three minutes went by and the Team led 12-0.
Now it was the Team’s turn to mess up their restart. The Loonies finally got some consistent possession, and while they didn’t immediately score, the run of play was in the Team’s half for the next four minutes. A loose pass was scooped up by Ferris and he fed Chris Mattina who found Aki Raymond, who simply refused to go down and fought his way over.
The Team’s calmness under pressure seemed to leave them in the second half as a few panicked passes led to a scrum at midfield and a chance for Raymond to go wide around the edge and in under the posts. Ferris converted and we had a tie ballgame.
Both teams made mistakes in trying to get that game-winning try. Finally, a series of penalties opened up a chance for the Team and they got it to Conroy Smith who was not to be denied. Isherwood’s conversion finished off a game where the Team started strong and ended strong, but lost the momentum in the middle.
Tries: Aren Martin, Harley Wheeler, ConRoy Smith
Convs: Tom Isherwood 2
Tries: Aki Raymond 2
Convs: Devereaux Ferris
Loggerheads vs Experts
If you had stopped these teams after 60 seconds and asked for something they needed to do better, both would have said “ball security” as possession changed three times before a minute was up. The third turnover produced a try. A penalty for not releasing allowed the Experts to attack from their half. Noah Bain bounced out of a tackle and Watson Filikitonga took on two tacklers before regathering a somewhat loose pass inside to score the opener.
The Loggerheads responded almost immediately, spinning the ball out to Devin Short for a long break. He was dragged down just short but a penalty later Brendon Curle tapped and sidestepped his way over.
With the score 7-7 the Loggerheads sent the restart short, meaning the Experts had a free kick at midfield, and the ball was spun to Logan Tago, who charged through the two men who tried to tackle the tank on legs and the Experts had the lead again.
Superstar Perry Baker started for the Experts but he had been used mostly as a decoy until late in the first half. Then the two-time World Rugby 7s Player of the Year cut into the middle and put away fellow 7s Eagle Naima Fuala’au. Just like that it was 17-7 but there was time for one more play in the first half where another 7s Eagle, Kevon Williams, took advantage. Spotting a little gap thanks to a misaligned defensive line, Williams exploded for a run of 80 meters to get the Loggerheads within a try.
The Experts took the momentum back thanks to a huge run from David Hightower that covered about 80 meters before he slipped the ball backward to Danny Thomas, and eventually Tago bulled his way through. Down 22-14 the Loggerheads knew they had to strike quickly, and they did, working their way down the field thanks to work from Williams and Tommy Clark before Patrick Madden picked up from Clark’s ruck and ran it in. Madden curved around close to the posts and it was a smart move as Cian Barry’s conversion was over to make it a one-point game at 22-21.
But the savvy Baker snagged a tap-back off the restart and a nifty no-look pass from Thomas allowed Corey Jones to take off from the 22, scoring under the posts untouched and putting the Experts out of reach. Baker ran out the clock and the Experts had their victory.
Tries: Watson Filikitonga, Logan Tago 2, Naima Fuala’au, Corey Jones
Convs: Naima Fuala’au 2
Tries: Brendon Curle, Kevon Williams, Patrick Madden
Convs; Cian Barry 3
Round 2 Women
Loggerheads vs Loonies
This game was punctuated by turnovers back and forth over the first several minutes. Both teams unleashed some massive tackles, with bodies strewn around the field. But points were hard to come by. Loggerheads got a penalty five meters from the Loonies tryline only to turn the ball over. However, in a bit of a bizarre play, Alev Kelter tried to kick clear from her own in-goal, popped the ball in the air, and when she tried to tap it back to a Loonie teammate Jaz Gray grabbed it and dropped down for the opening try for the Loggerheads.
The mishap seemed to energize the Loonies and they ran a smart team movement down the left sideline before Kelter skated across three defenders, drew the attention of all over them, and set the platform for Alex “Spiff” Sedrick to feed Sarah Levy, who took off for a 38-meter jaunt. With Kelter’s conversion the Loonies now led 7-5.
They added to that with a solid break from scrumhalf Delaney Aikens, a powerful run from Nana Fa’avesi, and then a step-and-dive from Hallie Taufoou under the posts. That made it 14-5 at halftime.
In the second half the Loonies had two prime try-scoring plays called back for forward passes (in one Kelter ran 80 meters before finding out it was all for nothing) but third time was a charm as Jo Asumang, coming on with fresh legs, strode through for the third Loonies score. The Loggerheads finally saw some possession at the end of the game, but had to far to go in too little time.
Tries: Sarah Levy, Hallie Taufoou, Jo Asumang
Convs: Alev Kelter 2
Tries: Jaz Gray
Experts vs Headliners
Alena Olsen kicked off the scoring by forcing a holding-on penalty after making a tackle, taking the quick-tap, and selling a dummy as she ran 25 meters to score for the Headliners. The hits started to come thick and fast as both sides saw themselves cough up the ball thanks to strong defensive work.
Stuck and static in their own 22 the Headliners got out thanks to a Kristen Thomas break and an athletic catch from Katie Johnson. Emily Wessel followed up and seemed away, but she was caught, only for Naya Tapper to charge in to pick up and score. The movement had covered over 80 meters but stayed hugged to the left sideline the entire way.
That made it 10-0 and the Headliners’ lead held into the second half. That’s when the Experts finally got on the board, with Emily Samek’s unlikely offload off the deck opening up a 50-meter run from Nene Persinger. The Headliners responded with a break into the Experts 22, where they camped out until the final minute. It was scrappy rugby but eventually an offside penalty gave the Headliners the opportunity they wanted and Sammy Sullivan cruised around the edge. With seconds left on the clock the Headliners won the restart and put Tapper away for her second and the Headliners put a finishing touch on their story.
Tries: Naya Tapper 2, Alena Olsen, Sammy Sullivan
Convs: Alena Olsen
Tries: Nene Persinger
Round 3 Men
Team vs Headliners
The Team looked to exert their physical power to put the Headliners on the back foot with skipper Danny Barrett and big Aaron Cummings making key runs, but a try-saving tackle from Gavan D’Amore held them off.
In the end, Barrett opened the scoring after he made a tackle, John Ryberg nabbed the ball, and Barrett was there to take the pass off the ruck and cut through. The former USA star was back in the action again after Canadian Tom Isherwood found some space around his 22 and fed Barrett for a long gallop into the Headliner half. He was tracked by Tim Stanfill but was able to loft a pass back to Isherwood, who goose-stepped his way in under the posts. It was a brilliant piece of teamwork and the Team led 14-0 at the break.
The Headliners had hardly seen the ball, and certainly not in a scoring position and that continued in the second half with Isherwood looping around Harley Wheeler and setting up Ryberg on a switch play to go over for the Team’s third. Finally the Headliners got something going thanks to Peter Tiberio, who fended off several tacklers to get near the line. But his support couldn’t win the final ruck and eventually Isherwood was set free to go 90 meters, fending off some attention as he ran, and a backbreaker try and a commanding 26-0 lead. Fittingly the game ended with the Headliners seeing the ball taken from them as the Team dominated possession and territory.
Tries: Danny Barrett, Tom Isherwood 2, John Ryberg
Convs: Coleson Warner 3
Experts vs Locals
An early turnover was a bit of a gift for the Experts and Perry Baker drew some attention before passing to big Logan Tago, and he thundered through a tackler to touch down in the corner. With Naima Fuala’au’s brilliant conversion from the touchline it was 7-0. Neither side could recreate that magic for the next several minutes, but with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the master himself, Baker, read a lofted pass at midfield and cruised in under the posts from 50 meters. That made it 14-0 and the teams went into halftime with the same score.
In the second half, the Locals needed an answer and a scamper from Connor Buckley followed by another from Alex Dorrier set up some space out wide for the long-legged Matai Leuta, and he made no mistake. But back came the Experts. Noah Bain took an angle and two Locals defenders converged on the Fijian-Canadian. Result? Bain accelerated away just as the two defenders slammed into each other. Both went down and Bain was free to run 80 meters for a try out of nothing. A yellow card for taking out Tago in the air put the Locals on their heels and Fuala’au sidestepped his way into the corner.
That’s how it ended as the Locals were unable to recreate the good work of earlier in the half.
Tries: Logan Tago, Perry Baker, Noah Bain, Naima Fuala’au
Convs: Naima Fuala’au
Tries: Matai Leuta
Round 3 Women
Experts vs Loggerheads
The Loggerheads got the first try from some well-executed, simple Rugby 7s. Some hard running down one side and some smooth passing put Autumn Locicero in at the corner. The Experts replied right off the restart with an impressive sidestep and acceleration from Amanda Berta. The conversions put the Experts ahead 7-5 and moments later another sidestep put Katilyn Broughton through. She was eventually dragged down but some excellent support work from the Experts allowed Bridget Kahele to pick up and just dive over.
In the second half a mistake from Kahele almost led to a try as she dropped a pass in her own 22 and the ball was toed ahead by Kayla Cannett. The ball, however, rolled tantalizingly into touch before Cannett could pick it up.
Stuck in their own 22 the Experts somehow held on, thanks in large part to a brilliant try-saving tackle from Katie Lohaus. And that eventually led to Berta cruising around the edge and taking off for a long, exhausting run to score her second of the game. With time winding down an excellent series of close-in passes put Kahele over for her second and the Experts were in control and the Loggerheads were left wondering where that first-minute magic had gone.
Tries: Amanda Berta 2, Bridget Kahele 2
Convs: Amanda Berta 3, Nene Persinger
Tries: Autumn Locicero
Headliners vs Loonies
Both the Headliners and Loonies were coming into this game 2-0 and knew this would be a preview of the final. Well they got the measure of Naya Tapper early as the experienced USA star fielded a loose pass, spun out of a tackle, and turned an iffy broken play into a try in the corner for the Headliners. A couple of minutes later she was in for her second. This time Sam Sullivan’s angled run pulled three defenders to her and allowed Tapper run around everyone else and just outstripped Sarah Levy to go 80 minutes.
The Loonies finally got some possession and some yardage, and with time essentially up in the first half they patiently drew in defenders until Sophia Pyrz saw enough space to scamper around from the base of the ruck. All of that was made possible by Alev Kelter and Jo Asumang running hard in traffic.
But in the second half the Headliners took the momentum back. A penalty by the Loonies led to a Headliners lineout and from there the ball was sent quickly out to Sullivan, who exploded through the line to score. And despite a mistake on the restart the Headliners kept the scoreboard ticking over. A kick from the Loonies’ Delaney Aikens was gathered up nicely by Alena Olsen. The Headliners recycled quickly and Emily Wessel took a gap, patiently waited for the final defender to commit, and smartly passed to Kathryn “KJ” Johnson to finish off a length-of-the-field effort. That put the game out of reach at 22-5, but the Loonies needed to put something together. That came courtesy of hardworking forward Hallie Taufoou, who was there for a pick-and-dive. The Headliners, though, had done enough.
Tries: Naya Tapper 2, Sammy Sullivan, KJ Johnson
Convs: Alena Olsen
Tries: Sophie Pyrz, Hallie Taufoou
So after three round of competition, here’s how the standings looked:
Bronze Medal Match Women
Loggerheads vs Experts
The Experts’ kickoff didn’t go 10 meters and immediately the Loggerheads struck. Megan Foster slotted a perfect grubber into the corner for Rachel Pau’u to chase. Erica Legaspi of the Experts got there first but Pau’u’s tackle knocked the ball loose and Foster, following her kick smartly, picked up and took it into the corner. Big tackles almost produced another try for the Loggerheads and only a desperate dive from Legaspi saved another try.
But a holding-on penalty by the Experts put them on the back foot once more and quickly the Loggerheads sent it out to Autumn Locicero to go in at the corner for a 10-0 lead. Despite the Experts’ efforts it was 15-0 soon enough. Quick over the ball the Loggerheads forced a holding-on penalty and quickly attacked from there. They did well to keep the ball moving and Lauren Thunen cut back to slice through for her team’s third try. The same formula worked moments later as Izzy Cerullo, this time, found the gap. That made it 20-0 at halftime.
The Experts had a huge amount of work to do, but their first effort ended in a knock-on, a free kick at the scrum and quick hands to set up Foster for the Loggerheads’ fifth try. The tries kept coming (if not the conversions) with Jaz Gray speeding around the outside. Finally, as time wound down, the Experts got on the scoreboard and of course it was Nene Persinger coming through for her side again. Her long run off a weak side scrum move at least gave the Experts something to cheer about, but the Bronze Medal went to the Loggerheads 30-5.
Tries: Megan Foster 2, Autumn Locicero, Lauren Thunen, Izzy Cerullo, Jaz Gray
Tries: Nene Persinger
Loonies vs Headliners
While the Headliners scored the first try the Loonies made them work for it, especially with a thumping tackle from Alev Kelter. Still, the Headliners worked the ball nicely from sideline to sideline to put Kristen Thomas through a gap for the opening try.
But the Loonies had the perfect answer as Hallie Taufoou caught the restart and flipped the ball over her head to Sarah Levy. The New Yorker took off at an angle that blew open the Headliner defense. She was eventually caught but the support was there, and eventually the connection that started the movement ended it, with Levy popping a ball to the hardworking Taufoou, who stretched over. Kelter’s touchline conversion tied it up 7-7.
The Headliners let the restart bounce and Taufoou was there to scoop it up. But an excellent defensive play from Naya Tapper prevented a quick second try. The reprieve was short-lived however as the Loonies forced a scrum and halfback Delaney Aikens fed the ball in, picked it up, and scampered through. That made it a 14-7 lead at halftime with all to play for.
Kelter extended that lead within the first minute of the second half as she stepped into a pass from Spiff Sedrick and cut bravely through from 50 meters. It was a brilliant try and she was not to be stopped. The Headliners needed to respond and did, with Thomas cutting around the edge and scoring on a play that really didn’t look all that promising. Olsen converted and it became a one-score game again 21-14.
All the big stars of the game for the Loonies came together to seal the championship. Kelter fought through key yards to get her side away from their tryline. Levy made a break around the left side, and then Aikens popped a grubber through the defense and chased it down to score the Loonies’ fourth try.
There was still time for the Headliners to come back, but the tenacious and hard-working defense from the Loonies, highlighted by a try-saving tackle from Aikens, closed out a championship performance.
Tries: Hallie Taufoou, Delaney Aikens 2, Alev Kelter
Convs: Alev Kelter 4
Tries: Kris Thomas 2
Convs: Alena Olsen 2
Loggerheads vs Team
Martin Iosefo started this game off with some fireworks, wrong-footing the Team defense to race in from 50 meters in the first minute. The Loggerheads kept up the pressure with Iosefo and Kevon Williams probing for more gaps. But Team’s defense held on and looked like they might be able to survive the onslaught. But a penalty just before halftime gave the Loggerheads one more shot, and after Iosefo broke through to near the tryline the ball was sent quickly to Devin Short on the wing and he just had to step over the line to score. Patrick Madden twisted the knife with a touchline conversion and the Loggerheads led 14-0 at halftime.
The Team finally got some momentum right off the second-half kickoff. Danny Barrett powered between two tacklers, freed up the ball to offload, and Coleson Warner raced in to take the pass and gallop in from 35. Up 14-5 the Loggerheads provided the perfect answer. Williams hustled down the sideline and was tackled high. Unable to tap quickly, the Loggerheads nevertheless set up Iosefo, who carried two tacklers with him before producing a perfect offload to the streaking D’Montae Noble. Try Loggerheads and while Madden’s kick hit the post the men in green were now in control.
Noble wasn’t done. He sidestepped two, rolled out of a tackle, and popped an unlikely pass to Williams to seal the game. Noble capped off his eventful second half with a yellow card and that opened up space for Aaron Cummings to score for the Team, but time was up by then, with the Loggerheads going through to the final 26-12.
Tries: Martin Iosefo, Devin Short, D’Montae Noble, Kevon Williams
Convs: Patrick Madden
Tries: Coleson Warner, Aaron Cummings
Convs: Tom Isherwood
Experts vs Headliners
After a promising Headliner break was halted, it was the Experts who got on the scoreboard first. It was strength in contact that got the ball over the line with Anthony Welmers and Corey Jones setting up Logan Tago to power through two defenders to score under the posts.
The Experts added to that after a Folau Niua kick didn’t go very far—David Hightower nabbed it and took off down the sideline. With 90 seconds left in the first half the Experts now led 14-0. Having scored through power the Experts then unleashed the pace. Perry Baker looked to run wide and then popped a kick down the field, raced in, and caught it on the bounce to score on a brilliant solo effort.
Up 21-0 the Experts kept up the pressure. Baker sped out of his 22, found Naima Fuala’au in support, took the return pass, and sped 50 more meters to score under the posts. The Headliners chased after him, but he’s Perry Baker, so they didn’t catch him.
The Headliners now had a mountain to climb. Local Memphis product Donovan Norphlet but Tago charged down the sideline to respond. Luis Turbeyfield added another from long range and it just wasn’t the Headliners’ moment.
Tries: Logan Tago 2, Perry Baker 2, David Hightower, Luis Turbeyfield
Convs: Naima Fuala’au 5
Tries: Donovan Norphlet
Men Bronze Medal
Loonies vs Locals
There was certainly plenty on the line in this game and it was the Locals’ train that pulled into the station first—a superb support line from Owen Brombal saw the big man fend off some attention and dive into the corner.
But the Loonies responded after the restart failed to go 10 meters. Chris Mattina sold a dummy, waiting for two players to come tackle him and lofted a pass to Giovani Douyon, who thundered through to score for the Loonies. With the score tired 5-5 the experienced heads made their move. Matai Leuta cut through for the Locals and, when he was caught, Tai Enosa sold a ridiculous dummy to open a hole and went in under the posts. Enosa converted, too, and it was 12-5 Locals.
That’s how the first half ended, and in the second half the Loonies came back with Mattina once again finding some space and then Shane Moore looping around to take a pass and outpacing the defense. Moore seemed away for his second and the lead but that try was called back for a forward pass. And 7s can be cruel that way because from the ensuing scrum Leuta took Enosa’s pass and cut through the weak side defense to run 80 meters into the corner. Instead of the Loonies being ahead, the Locals now led 17-10.
Both sides had chances to score, but turnovers undercut those opportunities. Finally as the game wound down Ross Depperschmidt burst onto Patrick Regan’s pass and sealed it with a try under the posts. Alex Dorrier converted and the Locals had their medal.
Tries: Owen Brombal, Tai Enosa, Matai Leuta, Ross Depperschmidt
Convs: Tai Enosa, Alex Dorrier
Tries: Giovani Douyon, Shane Moore
Experts vs Loggerheads
The two teams in the final had met already in the PR7s, with the Experts taking down the Loggerheads in a close one 29-21. Key for the Loggerheads was keeping Logan Tago in check, and punishing mistakes.
So when the Experts kickoff didn’t go the required 10 meters, Kevon Williams was only too happy to run off the back of the ensuing scrum and blow by all of the Experts to score from halfway.
The Loggerheads suffered a blow right after that when Martin Iosefo was yellow-carded for taking Perry Baker down while he was in the air—Iosefo’s protestations that he was going for the ball carried no weight with referee Kat Roche and the Loggerheads were now shorthanded for at least two minutes.
With the big back on the sideline Tago had an opportunity. He fended off Ethan Scott and charged on for a long-range try.
Both sides had chances to score after that. Naima Fuala’au lost the handle of a tough pass and it landed forward. Iosefo fumbled just as he was going over the line at the other end, and halftime came with the Loggerheads up 7-5.
Yellow cards hurt the Loggerheads once again in the second half. Facing a 2-on-1 D’Montae Noble tried to intercept a pass and the ball came off his hand—intentional knock-on and an automatic yellow. The Experts made that hurt, with David Hightower gathering a loose ball and outstripping the defense to go in under the posts.
The hits started coming fast and hard, forcing some loose passes, while the speedsters looked to find some space. In the end it was from a bit of a surprise source. As the Experts defense swarmed in to contain Noble and Williams, it was Patrick Madden who unveiled some fancy footwork and enough acceleration to put him through for a clutch try. Madden, who had already hit a conversion from the sideline, was still catching his breath when this conversion needed to be taken and Iosefo missed, retaining the tie at 12-12 with two minutes left.
But thoughts of the overtime kicking shootout were dismissed as Noble sidestepped through four or five Experts. They all converged to tackle him and Devin Short was there to take the next pass and dive over. Brendon Curle converted for the 19-12 lead. The Experts had one more chance and they patiently worked the ball sideline to sideline. Finally, Tago pushed Leon Powell onto his back and took off to score untouched from 60 meters. Fuala’au’s kick was good and, wouldn’t you know it, we had a 19-19 tie.
So on to a kicking shootout. A series of players kicked drop kicks from the 22. Both teams missed their opening efforts. Loggerheads missed their second effort. Luis Turbeyfield slotted his right down the middle, and with the next Loggerheads miss that was it, the Experts were champions and Tago, who scored that crucial last try, took home the tournament MVP award.
Experts 19 (1-0 in shootout)
Tries: Logan Tago 2, David Hightower
Convs: Naima Fuala’au 2
Tries: Kevon Williams, Patrick Madden, Devin Short
Convs: Patrick Madden 2