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EIRA wins 2017 NAI7s in a classic win

By Alex Goff, 08/23/17, 2:30PM MDT


The story goes that the night before the final of the North American Invitational 7s, FloRugby asked Eagle Impact Rugby Academy scrumhalf/flyhalf Patrick Madden and Atlantis flyhalf Mike Weir for a joint interview.

And we asked them, how would the final between their two teams turn out -- assuming they were fortunate enough to get there.

Madden just silently made his hands show a W. Weir said the score would be 21-19, with Madden missing the key conversion. Both players knocked on the nearby wooden table for luck.

When the dust settled at the Regional Athletic Complex in Salt Lake City on Saturday, it was EIRA that had secured the victory over Atlantis, not 21-19 but close enough… 28-26. There was one missed conversion, a touchline attempt from Weir.

The Atlantis pivot laughed after the game.

"I know, we talked about it right after the game, and the thing is, Patrick knocked on wood first!" Weir said.

Apparently, there are rules about these things.

In a final a final worthy of an excellent tournament, Atlantis needed all of their mojo to capture the title. Against the Canadian Misfits in the quarterfinals, Atlantis fell behind after some ill-advised choices on offense and needed a nifty feed from Weir to set up Jesse Capriotti for a long, lonely run diagonally across the field to seal the 17-14 victory.

It was a similar story in the semifinals, as Atlantis and the South traded tries. Coming off a three-try performance, Capriotti was the hero once more, racing down the sideline for the game-winner and a place in the final.

EIRA had to battle Upright Rugby Rogues in the quarters, but after that thrashed Center Parkway 40-7 to make the final game.

In the championship match, Capriotti put his foot on the pedal early on to score the opening try. After a solid setup, he went across in the corner, and Weir's conversion attempt just missed.

A broken play led to EIRA's Eric Naposki coming in on support to equalize and Madden converted. The big, bad forwards of Atlantis -- Robert Figley and Kyle Hegarty, specifically -- set up the other forward, Chase Schor Haskin, who thundered over near the posts to give Atlantis a 12-7 lead before halftime. 

In the second half, EIRA scored in quick succession in a key period.

Jack Wendling carried several Atlantis players over the line. Then, from the restart, Jack Bradfield recovered the kick as he soared into the air, landed, and then beat three defenders to score. Madden's conversion made it 21-12.

After Atlantis and Eagle Impact traded tries from Hegarty and Wendling, it seemed all over as EIRA held a late 28-19 lead. But Atlantis had one more shot and got in under the posts, only to see time run out as Weir kicked the conversion to keep the margin at 28-26.

The play was about as good as you'd want to see. Noah Geltman was brilliant on defense for Atlantis, saving tries and tackling much larger players. Bradfield was explosive, and Joseph Kamar was a force. Naposki was the inventive epitome for EIRA, rivaling Capriotti with his penchant for the big play.

Madden and Weir lived up to the hype, but you wonder if maybe knocking on wood was the biggest play.

In the third-place game, a very talented Center Parkway team defeated the South Panthers 26-17 on a day that may have been one too many for the Panthers. 

After the deep disappointment of a loss in pool play and again in the quarters, Upright Rugby picked themselves up and beat Utah Lions to make the Plate Final. There they met a Canadian Misfits team that boasted a pile of Canadian age-grade national team players. The Misfits came close against Atlantis and this time slammed Upright 31-5.

Utah Lions Academy defeated Atlantis U17s 24-14 in a stunning second-half display for seventh place. Rocky Mountain Rebels played a smart team game that accentuated their speed to beat Herriman for the Bowl.

Atavus All Stars put it together to take 11th over Rhino Rugby Academy. Cobra defeated Portland Pumas for 13th, and Rock Rugby Academy took 15th.