Written by 7’s Coach Steve Stagg –
The SMRC Sevens Squad traveled to New York City for the 2018 USA Club Rugby National 7’s Championship after a solid summer of training and qualifying tournaments with optimism of good performance and setting the goal of finishing in the Top 10. However even after pleasing moments during the first 3 pool games, we finished with a disappointing 0-3 after Day 1.
Our first 2 games against Washington Athletic Club and Metropolis Rugby were contests we could have easily won if not for some basic execution errors which we were unable to defend against. Possession in 7’s Rugby is key and this is something we spoke about before and after the Game 1, but unfortunately were unable to rectify for Game 2. Due to rain and lightning, our third game was delayed 2 hours and as a group we failed to show up for a disappointing performance and result falling to New Orleans by a conversion. All three games on Saturday were winnable games and we lost only by a close margin. Washington and Metropolis would both go on to finish in the Top 8.
After some serious soul searching and candid conversations as a group after our third pool game, I noticed a huge improvement in the warm up Sunday morning which lead to my proudest moment of the weekend — a 26-0 mauling of Belmont Shore Gold. This was a complete display by the boys in defense, communication and execution qualifying us for the Bowl Semi-Finals against the Beltway Elite.
In our semi-final match up we were simply out-enthused by a team who simply wanted it more. Once again losing the first 2 kick-offs and gifting Beltway Rugby possession went a long way to helping them get momentum and eventually win the game.
Our final game for the tournament the 11th V 12th face off was against New Orleans Rugby Club, the same team we failed to beat in our 3rdpool game. By this point bodies were battered and bruised, injury substitutions were made, and some boys were truly on their last legs. To their credit, the guys that played gave it their all and we were able to finish with a win. Most pleasingly finishing it off and even putting more points on the board with our entire starting bench.
In the last few weeks leading up to Nationals, my key focus for the squad had been 1-on-1 tackling, speed and aggression to the breakdown and both offensive and defensive kick-offs. All in all, I believe our delivery on these points had vastly improved compared to our qualifying tournaments and when we can learn to execute and stay composed for a full 14mins we will be a consistent Top 10 team in the country.
At the conclusion of our final game, I sat all the boys down to recap the weekend and to provide feedback from my perspective as to how we can improve as individuals and as a group. The number one thing we can do as a 7’s squad and as a club is to increase our standards as a group on-and-off the field and to hold ourselves accountable to these standards. Simple things like turning up to training on time, looking after rehab and recovery, game day nutrition and arriving to games and warm ups. I’ve seen first-hand on numerous occasions that these small things that seem insignificant to some individuals, are truthfully the building blocks to the culture of winning teams. When we, as a group begin to hold ourselves and our peers to these winning standards, I truly believe our results will better.
Lastly – I would like to thank Shane Spring, my Co-Coach for the better part of the season for all his experience and wisdom. All of our Members and Old Boys for their contributions and continued support. The SMRC Board and the Club for allowing me my first Rugby Coaching opportunity. Joey Krassenstein, Victor Woo and Wayne Yankelwitz for the behind-the-scenes work to make the season possible. Coach Tim, Coach Marc, and Amy Fee for their knowledge and contributions. Lastly, big thank you to the greater squad over the Summer including the 14 players who gave up their time and resources to represent Santa Monica Rugby Club on the national stage. You should all be proud of your contributions and I thank you.