Thursday, August 8, 2013

Club 7's Preview: Pool C

If there is a favorite heading into this weekend's club 7's nationals it has to be Seattle-OPSB. The team is stacked with talent and has blown through the competition this year save SFGG who gave them their closest result. That said, other teams in Pool C have been excellent as well. WE Rugby has plenty of firepower of their own and Middlesex has some great players. It will be a battle to see who emerges as the top team.

As we said, Seattle-OPSB has to be the favorite heading into nationals. With the likes of Mike Palefau, Kellen Gordon, Tim Stanfill, Miles Craigwell, Emosi Vucago and Ben Gollings on the roster they could give several national teams a run for their money. They got a late start to the 7's season after deliberately resting from a grueling 15's season.  That doesn't appear to have been a worry for the team as they have cruised through the competition. True, aside from SFGG in the Pacific Coast 7's they haven't faced any difficult teams. That could hurt them this weekend but they have the experience needed to step up. One of the big questions surrounding the team is the health of Gollings. Obviously losing a player of his caliber would be tough but Simi Ratukalou played well as his replacement.

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 WE Rugby, formerly Woodlands Exiles, has been one of the teams to take 7's seriously this summer. They trained four days a week this summer and that paid off with consistent performances. The team has Hunter Leland, and a whole host of Arkansas State players--Zac Mizell, Shaun Potgeiter, Zinzan Elan-Puttick, and Dean Gericke. Having played together all summer as well as having a core from the Red Wolves has allowed WE to implement more than just a basic strategy. In a two day tournament where fitness is an issue that ability to thrown in something different could be the difference.

Middlesex battled Old Blue all summer for the top spot in the Northeast but came out in the second spot. The Barbarians have some terrific players on their squad, including Vini Daley. Daley has been one of the underrated stars of the summer and this weekend could be his opportunity to break out in the mainstream. He has a great step, great pace, and could very well be in an Eagles jersey sooner than later. Daley, along with Jon Kokinda, will play with the New York City 7's at the World Club 7's. The difficulty for Middlesex at nationals may be depth. Whether they have enough depth to stay up with Seattle-OPSB, but more specifically WE Rugby, is a big question for the team.

NOVA qualified for the tournament as the second-placed team in the Mid-Atlantic. They are expected to be one of the strugglers at nationals. MARFU wasn't the strongest region throughout the summer and their qualification process didn't favor season-long results. That said, NOVA have played a lot of rugby this summer and could make waves in the Bowl competition.

Prediction: Seattle-OPSB will top this group without much difficulty. WE Rugby could be a trip-up match for them but they should beat Middlesex and NOVA without a problem. WE Rugby is the favorite to take the second spot unless Middlesex can take it into another gear. Look for Middlesex to do well in the Bowl.

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