25 January, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ONTARIO JUNIOR BLUES WIN BRONZE AT PRESTIGIOUS LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL SEVENS RUGBY TOURNAMENT
(LAS VEGAS, NV) – Ontario’s junior provincial men’s rugby sevens team, the U18 Junior Blues, ensured they wouldn’t be returning home from the prestigious Las Vegas Sevens tournament empty-handed on Saturday afternoon, earning a bronze medal at the two-day international competition.
Having won their most recent tournament – the New York Sevens competition this past November – the Junior Blues were looking to build on their performance from a couple of months ago.
However, their journey towards the Las Vegas podium took a hit on Day One of the competition, as the Junior Blues sustained a first-match loss to rivals British Columbia, as well as the loss of team veteran Kyle Lagasca to injury. Forced to overcome adversity, the Junior Blues were able to calm their nerves and secure two victories later on in the day, defeating the Washington Loggers (Seattle, WA) and Upright Rugby Rogues (Oakville, ON) to end their first day of competition with a 2-1 record.
Ontario Jr. Blues 38 v. 7 High School All-Americans-2
With one match remaining in pool play, Ontario required a victory over the High School All-Americans-2 on Saturday morning in order to secure a berth in the Cup round of the tournament.
Facing an American side that also had a 2-1 record after Day One of competition, Ontario knew coming into the match that their opposition would be tough. Rising to the challenge, the Junior Blues jumped out to a 12-7 lead at halftime through two tries from Brandon McLeod and a conversion from Keaton Porter.
The first-half try was the last scoring play Ontario would give up in the match, as the Junior Blues would go on to score four additional tries in the second half: two more from McLeod, and one apiece from Mitchell Richardson and Kieran Smerdon. Porter added three more conversions to seal the victory, with Ontario winning comfortably, 38-7.
The result meant that Ontario finished second in their pool with a 3-1 record.
Cup Semifinal: Ontario Jr. Blues 5 v. 24 High School All-Americans-1
Ontario’s second-place finish in their pool dictated that their Cup semifinal opponent would be the High School All-Americans-1: a team made up of the top twelve elite high school rugby sevens players in America, and the winners of last year’s tournament.
The All-Americans got off to the better start in the match, using the speed of their wingers to score two first-half tries, leading 10-0 at halftime.
Ontario’s resident speedster Brandon McLeod cut into the All-American’s lead with a try of his own, but the Junior Blues could not overcome their first-half deficit, giving up two second-half tries to fall 24-5 to the eventual 2014 tournament champions.
Bronze Medal Match: Ontario Jr. Blues 21 v. 19 Nor Cal All Stars
Determined not to lose their focus, Ontario would need to get through the Northern California All Stars in order to earn a place on the Las Vegas podium. Similar to the Junior Blues, the All Stars finished with a 3-1 record in their respective pool, and were narrowly defeated by British Columbia in their Cup semifinal earlier in the day.
Ontario drew first blood in the match, with McLeod scoring his sixth try of the day with a brilliant half-pitch run. With Porter’s conversion, the Junior Blues jumped to a 7-0 lead, but advantage would be short lived, as the All Stars scored two late first-half tries to bring the score to 14-7 by the halftime whistle.
Porter leveled the score with a try and conversion early in the second half, but once again, the All Stars responded with a try under the posts. However, the Californian kicker shanked his conversion attempt; an error that would prove to be extremely costly for the All Stars.
With just seconds remaining in the match, Junior Blues co-captain Trenton Cooper showed some late-match heroics, using his tremendous speed to score a try under the posts. With the score even at 19-19, Porter kept a level head to notch his conversion, thus securing a 21-19 victory for Ontario, as well as the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens tournament bronze medal.
After the match, Junior Blues head coach Darrell Devine discussed how his team’s resilience proved to be the difference-maker in the tournament.
“Losing a player like Kyle Lagasca, a player whose talent and leadership are respected by all eleven of his teammates, put a jolt in all of us,” said Devine. “The boys knew they had to regroup, rely on their core skills, and band together to pick the sizable gap that Kyle’s loss meant for us.”
“I couldn’t be prouder of our boys,” he added. “They played the toughest competition of their lives, facing the absolute best young rugby sevens teams in North America, and stared adversity in the face to come away with the bronze.”
Junior Blues co-captain Mitchell Richardson said that he and his teammates were determined to win some silverware for their injured friend.
“We knew that this tough tournament would be that much tougher without Kyle, and this morning, we talked about how we didn’t want to leave Las Vegas without winning something for him,” he said. “Playing for that extra purpose helped us to take our game to the next level.”
The tournament, played at locations just a short drive from the iconic Las Vegas Strip, is one of the largest amateur rugby competitions in North America, with more than 240 teams participating in 25 divisions this year.
Two other Ontario-based teams participated in the High School Boys Elite division, with the Upright Rugby Rogues, a rugby academy based out of Oakville, ON, meeting the Toronto Rugby Union’s U17 team in the division’s Bowl final. The Rogues, featuring a couple of former members of the Junior Blues, won the match, 19-7.
The Ontario Junior Storm, the U18 women’s provincial rugby sevens team, bowed out of the tournament on Friday, losing a heartbreaking match in their division’s Bowl semifinal. For a recap of the Junior Storm’s Las Vegas Invitational Sevens tournament: http://www.rugbyontario.com/AboutUs/NewsStories/LatestNews/tabid/15402/sni/3565/language/en-US/Default.aspx
For more information regarding the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens tournament, please visit: http://www.usasevens.com/las-vegas/las-vegas-invitational/
Ontario U18 Jr. Blues 7s Pool Schedule for Las Vegas Invitational Sevens:
8:00am PST / 11:00am EST: British Columbia Elite Youth 7s-1 24 v. 12 Ontario Jr. Blues (Jan. 24)
10:40am PST / 1:40pm EST: Ontario Jr. Blues 26 v. 19 Washington Loggers (Jan. 24)
3:20pm PST / 6:20pm EST: Upright Rugby Rogues 21 v. 26 Ontario Jr. Blues (Jan. 24)
8:00am PST / 11:00am EST: Ontario Jr. Blues 38 v. 7 High School All-Americans-2 (Jan. 25)
11:20am PST / 2:20pm EST – Cup Semifinal: Ontario Jr. Blues 5 v. 24 High School All-Americans-1 (Jan. 25)
1:40pm PST / 4:40pm EST – Bronze Match: Ontario Jr. Blues 21 v. 19 Nor Cal All Stars (Jan. 25)
Ontario U18 Jr. Blues 7s Squad for New York Sevens:
Sayf Al-Omaishi (Markham Irish)
Jack Caylor (Toronto Nomads)
Jared Chen (Oakville Crusaders)
Trenton Cooper (Oshawa Vikings)
Kyle Lagasca (Toronto Buccaneers)
Troy Matthews (Markham Irish)
Peter Milazzo (Toronto Saracens)
Brandon McLeod (Cobourg Saxons)
Aidan O’Brien (Oakville Crusaders)
Keaton Porter (Barrie RFC)
Mitchell Richardson (Stoney Creek)
Kieran Smerdon (Mississauga Blues)
Head Coach – Darrell Devine
Manager – Cory Hector
Athletic Therapist – Lacey Scott
About Rugby Ontario
Rugby Ontario is the provincial sports governing body responsible for the organization of rugby in Ontario. Our mission is to promote, govern, and develop rugby at all levels in a safe, affordable and enjoyable environment within the province of Ontario.
For more information, visit http://www.rugbyontario.com/
About Rugby Ontario’s Junior Provincial Sevens Program:
The Rugby Ontario junior provincial sevens program is designed to help develop the skills of young rugby players in the province of Ontario, with of goal of setting these athletes on the pathway to identification for Canadian national team representation.
For more information, please contact:
Office: 416 426-7049
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