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Stacked MARFU Finals (rugbymag.com article)
Stacked MARFU Finals
Despite leading the Mid-Atlantic men’s 7s standings in points, and despite being the host team, the Norfolk Blues are probably coming into the MARFU 7s Championships as slight underdogs.
The Blues, after all, got their points by being relatively consistent throughout the season, not by winning tournaments. Maryland, NOVA and Schuylkill River all won tournaments, not Norfolk.
“I think we’re considered the fourth team in this group,” said Norfolk Coach Chris Porter. “And there are other competitive teams out there. Our first game is against Rocky Gorge, which is coming off a national DII title and did really well in the last tournament. They will be on fire. We have to be careful in every game or we could be going home.”
But the Blues do have something to offer, including, perhaps, the best group of forwards in the region. John Leo has been outstanding and he joins veterans Ed Stockunas and Fred Wintermantel in a trio that is superb.
If they can get those three to dictate terms, the Blues have something to offer, especially with Ross Inia playing extremely well as scrumhalf and flyhalf.
But is it enough? NOVA, after almost sleepwalking through the early portion of the season, exploded to win the Slug 7s last week. PJ Komongnan is still a brilliant playmaker, Seta and Toshi Palamo know their way around the field, and Coach Prince Hill has them playing together.
Maryland is expected to be much better than their 1-3 record from last week. They’ve got the players, including J’son Townes, Alfred Qaranivalu, and Trevor Tanufum. If they can get everyone together on the same page, they can easily win.
But the favorites are probably still Schuylkill River, another team that underperformed last week. Schuylkill entered the Slug 7s without Greg Ambrogi (ankle), Kevin Erskine (minor car accident), and Coach Chris Ryan (out of town). Without two of their go-to guys, and without their coach to remind them they can do fine anyway, the Exiles still made the final, but were defeated by NOVA.
This week, Ambrogi says he will be back ready to play, and that’s a boost for the team.
“You want the team to go in with the mind-set that they can handle losing any player, but when you lose your home run hitter, it’s tough psychologically,” said Ryan. “We know this tournament is going to be difficult. We’ve NOVA, Washington, and Baltimore in our pool and they are all tough. At least this year it’s supposed to be about 80 degrees, not 120 like last year!”
Schuylkill has benefitted from some excellent work by Gareth Jones and Pat Boyle, and their depth could well see them through. However they will have to handle the overall pace of NOVA and Maryland, and the hard-edge of Norfolk, to do it.