Atlantis 7s U19 at the 2014 LVI Elite HS 7s
January 22-26 marked the first ever assembly of an Atlantis U19 7s team. 12 players, representing 10 different schools, 5 different states, and ranging in ages from 16-19, came together over the course of 4 days to compete at the Elite High School 7s tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, against the best competition in North America.
Facing both the U.S. National team and elite representative sides from Canada and the U.S., the boys not only competed against every opponent, but in finishing 3-3, they represented Atlantis, their home clubs, and themselves with pride and excellence.
Following delays due to winter weather on the eastern seaboard, the team finally assembled on Thursday morning, January 23. The boys quickly worked together over two strong practice sessions, and entering Friday morning seemed confident. The opening game against the British Columbia Youth 2’s started strong, with good ball movement by Cale Williams leading to athletic tries by Joe Kelly and Mike Eife. Atlantis continued their strong play through the second half, winning 26-12 on tries by Connor Cassidy and Manny Soto.
The second match of the day against the U.S. High School All-Americans began with some of the best rugby of the weekend. We dominated possession, moved the ball with pace and skill, and showed great athleticism in tries by Mike Eife and Ryan Kilgallen. At the half we led 14-10. In the second half Atlantis faced pressure on deep kicks from the U.S. and made too many critical mistakes near our own tryline that led to 19 unanswered point. The game ended 14-29.
In our 3rd contest the Northern California squad came out strong and dominated possession from the opening kickoff, building a 19-0 lead following several turnovers on our part. Not letting up, we were able to fight back and finish a try just before halftime, with the score standing 5-19. In the second half we played with much more intensity, maintained possession, and cleaned up the mistakes from the first 7 minutes. Unfortunately, the boys couldn’t pull off the comeback, losing 15-26.
After a two hour wait, the final game against Toronto gave us a chance to make up for the previous losses. Manny Soto scored an athletic try off a turnover in the 2nd minute, but the remainder of the half was a scrappy, hard-fought contest that ended 7-5. In the second half Toronto continued to pressure us with a 7-man defense, eventually building a 7-15 lead with under two minutes to play. Off the next kickoff we settled down, and after moving the ball quickly down the line, Raekwon Caswell burst through two Toronto tacklers and finished a 70 meter try under the posts that was quickly converted. With under a minute to play Atlantis played great pressure defense, forcing Toronto into their try zone. Following a panicked kick from the Canadians to relieve pressure, Manny Soto quickly passed the ball to Mike Eife who scored the final try with no time left on the clock for a 21-15 victory. It was a great comeback and win for the players.
Sunday morning against the Washington Loggers was the team’s best overall performance. We dominated possession, moved the ball quickly and efficiently, and built on a 12-7 halftime lead to finish the game running away 33-14. Ryan Kilgallen led the team with 3 tries in the contest. Our final match against the United States All-American 2’s began much the same way as we did on Saturday, dominating possession to build a 12-7 halftime lead. In the second half the U.S. was able to use excellent kickoffs to pressure our possession and force turnovers near the tryline, building a 12-19 lead. With no time left Atlantis created one last opportunity to tie the game but fell short. The final score was 12-26.
The overall result of the weekend was outstanding. To finish 3-3 while playing for the first time against teams of this calibre is an excellent accomplishment, and these players should be proud of the way they played on the field and their camaraderie off it. This group of young men was chosen after participating in an Atlantis 7s camp in Delaware during the fall of 2013. The coaches/selectors included, among others, the following: Salty Thompson, the U.S. U19 National team Coach; Emil Signes, Former Men’s and Women’s National Team coach and Atlantis founder; Bill Boyle, who coached the University of Delaware to the Collegiate CRC 7s Final 4; David Niu, former international Australian and U.S. Flyhalf in both rugby union and rugby league; and Keith Cassidy, former U.S. Rugby League international and the most capped Atlantis 7s men’s player. We also identified players representing Pennsylvania at the New York 7s in November. We look to continue to identify and develop talented young players, put them against the best competition we can find, and prepare them to succeed at the collegiate and national level.