Bermuda teams reached three finals at the Ariel Re Bermuda International Rugby Sevens at the North Field over the weekend.
Beyond Rugby I beat Warwick/BI Grizzlies 7-5 in an all-Bermuda high school final, with Saltus Grammar School beating St Thomas Eagles, from Houston, 12-10 in the third-place match.
The Bermuda All-Stars men’s and women’s teams finished runners-up in their respective college cup finals, with the women losing a heartbreaking final 19-17 to American International College, from Massachusetts, in the first women’s event of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the men improved significantly from last year’s showing. They went down again to Kutztown University, from Pennsylvania, in the final, losing 24-12 after being beaten 33-5 by the Bears in last year’s title game.
“From an organisational point of view, it’s been a complete and utter success,” Tom Healy, the Bermuda men’s sevens coach, said. “You can see by the number of people who came down here over the weekend. We were well in excess cumulatively 500-600 people, so that’s huge for us.
“Bermuda succeeded in getting into all three finals, so again a real mark of how far rugby is coming in Bermuda.
“I don’t think we’ve been as successful in a tournament, collectively. You can see from a tournament perspective, that Argo and Ariel Re succeeded in making this a community event. So we’ve had a broad spectrum of people down here — it wasn’t just the rugby community. The rugby was a higher standard again.”
Healy was especially pleased with how his young side competed in the final against Kutztown, who are at No 20 in the American D1A College Rugby rankings.
“That’s a credit to the institution we’re trying to create with rugby sevens,” he said of their performance. “It’s a completely different game from your traditional XVs game.
“We’re getting there. We’ve a lot farther to go, but these guys are one of the top colleges in the US, and we competed with them today. And that’s where the Bermuda rugby sevens team are.
“Then you have the young guys who came in. Every one of them stepped up. There were huge performances from our younger players.
“Alex Doyling was a rock star, Alex Brown was immense, he was physical and great defensively. Janiko Francis really stepped up. He’s aggressive and punches above his weight. And Mikey Dill.
“There are other players who played really well, but these guys really stepped up today.
“From a coaching perspective, it’s a real pleasure in getting a return and seeing these players perform.”
Healy was also delighted with the Beyond Rugby team’s triumph in the high-school event.
“You can see the way they reacted in the trophy presentation, this is probably the first trophy they’ve won,” he said.
“We had a team from the US, and to beat their peers show what work has gone on at the Beyond Rugby level [from] the coaches, Dan Roberts, Darren Woods, Paddy Calow. So those guys are clearly getting fruits from their efforts. And it means so much to the players.
“It comes from guys who potentially were going a different route in life and they’ve managed to turn it around and go this route.
“They’ve succeeded academically, they’ve succeeded on the rugby pitch and today it all came together.
“Bermuda Sevens takes a bit of break now, we focus on the XVs international season, and then once that completes in June, the sevens will be back to the fore and we’ll look to travel to hopefully Denver in August and the Caribbean Championships a bit later on.”