Phoenix Wins First Sevens Tournament of New Season
Saturday, October 14, 2017Updated Wednesday October 25, 2017 by Niall Fenton.
Phoenix sent two varsity teams to this year’s Battle of Stones River Sevens Tournament in Tennessee seeking to win a competition last won by Phoenix 4 years ago. This represented the 37th running of this famous and prestigious event that traditionally opens the Phoenix Fall season. Under new Head Coach, Buster Kennett, the players were separated into two 12-man squads with the development team playing as Alpharetta Rugby and the varsity team playing as Phoenix Rugby.
The Phoenix squad opened proceedings with a comfortable win over Bearden and a runaway win over Blackman to set up a pool deciding game against an unbeaten Ravenwood side who entered the tournament as one of the strong favorites. While Phoenix largely had things their own way in the earlier games with Tim Voin, Ollie Kennett and Mitch Blair running rampant, this was not the case in this game. Ravenwood, demonstrating why they were favored, scored an early unconverted try and it was some time before Tim Voin broke clear to even the scores up at the half time whistle. Again, it was Ravenwood who scored first in the second half against a Phoenix team that seemed stuck in second gear. Finally, with a mere 12 seconds left in the contest, Elliot Robinson finished off a somewhat disjointed passing attack by getting over the Ravenwood line under the posts. The resulting conversion meant that Phoenix had, somewhat fortuitously, won both the game and the pool to qualify for the tournament semi-final.
The Alpharetta team opened against a very strong South Doyle squad and were overwhelmed in their opener 52 to 5. This was primarily due to a safety-first approach taken by the coaches in not starting many of the team’s younger players until the opposition could be realistically assessed. In the second half the team looked a great deal more competitive with Seb Kennett’s try a high point. In their second game, they faced a tall mountain in the overall tournament favorites Memphis Inner City, playing as Freedom Prep. They turned in a terrific first half performance in being only 10 to 0 down at the break to a very large and fast team. Jack Lavelle, Seb Kennett and Matteo Podesta were mighty in defense but eventually the dam broke and the Memphis team ran in two more tries to win comfortably. However, in their final game the Alpharetta team showed the progress they had made throughout the tournament in trouncing the Blackman side by 30 points! What a great end to their tournament and a credit to the boys and coaches Cridick and Podesta.
Phoenix, no doubt recognizing the poor performance given in the close Ravenwood pool game, came out swinging in the semi-final against Riverdale. From the off the team took control of the game to win comfortably and set up a final against tournament favorites Memphis who had thrashed a good South Doyle side in the other semi-final. Playing their best rugby of the day, Phoenix played smart sevens rugby in retaining possession, maintaining patience and strong defense. Memphis scored first on a breakaway try but Phoenix kept to their game plan and ultimately prevailed 22 to 10 with Memphis scoring at the end of the game. It was a dominant performance and a master class in controlled rugby. Tim Voin and Ollie Kennett were massive in this game, particularly since both were playing hurt, while Mitch Blair and Griffin Tucker were outstanding. Sevens, however, is a team game and all the Phoenix players were magnificent in what was a great Phoenix team win.
The first silverware of the season for Phoenix in our first competitive outing bodes well for the season ahead. Phoenix are the winners of the 37th Annual Battle of Stones River Sevens Tournament!