Houston Athletic Rugby Club hosted the annual Hell or High Water 7’s this past weekend at Aveva Stadium in Houston, TX. This stop was the second RRRC qualifier stop of the summer and the third for the TOLA series. Below we’re going to recap both sides of the tournament, and start to whittle down the clear leaders entering the latter half of the season.
In the qualifier rounds, a clear leader emerged for both the men and the women; and only one more tournament remains in the hunt to qualify for Nationals.
RRRC Qualifier Points
Dallas RFC – Red
Austin Huns – White
RRRC - Men
The Men’s Premier Bracket, which was played in a Qualifier/TOLA hybrid, had two pools of four teams each.
Dallas RFC-Red took the top seed in this pool, partnered with the Austin Blacks, the Grand Prairie Mavericks, and Rugby HTX. Dallas finished 3-0, opening the day with a 24-7 win over Rugby HTX, 12-5 over Grand Prairie, and 19-7 over the Austin Blacks. Far from the gargantuan numbers they put up in Bloodfest on opponents, it looked like the competition was tightening up. The Austin Blacks took Grand Prairie by a conversion and blanked Rugby HTX to finish 2-1, and take second out of the pool. Rugby HTX managed to bank a win over Grand Prairie 17-12, leaving the Mavericks to finish 0-3, despite Grand Prairie only having a point differential of [-14] to Rugby HTX’s [-31].
The Austin Huns-White were put into competition against the Dallas Harlequins, DFW 7’s (formerly Gorilla), and San Antonio. This week it was Austin putting up big numbers; they finished 3-0 with a total [+62] PD after the pool rounds. Their closest match was against DFW 7’s who finished 1-2, only managing to beat San Antonio. The Dallas Harlequins emerged as the second seed after two-score wins over San Antonio and DFW 7’s. San Antonio went 0-3, leaving them to enter the consolation rounds.
In the consolation rounds, Grand Prairie took on San Antonio, both looking for their first win of the day. Both teams opened the game up and created exciting opportunities for both sides. It would end up a one-score game, and Grand Prairie closed the deal winning 31-26. The next match-up pitted Rugby HTX against DFW 7’s. Another thrilling match-up, both teams competing hard at the breakdown and pressuring on defense. It would come down to a conversion and hometown Rugby HTX would send it over, 21-19 final.
The cup semifinal rounds had the top of Pool 1 against the second in Pool 2, and vice versa. This ensured that both a Dallas-based team and an Austin-based team would advance to the final. Funny how it always works out that way. Dallas RFC took on the Dallas Harlequins in the first semifinal. These two teams haven’t yet faced off in the 2022 7’s season, and the Harlequins were eager to win the North Texas derby. Though the Harlequins fought and managed to find the in-goal twice, Dallas RFC started to recover their signature scoring frenzy, putting up 33 points to the Harlequins 10. The next semifinal was anticipated to be much closer. In a rematch of the Bloodfest premier semifinal, the Austin Huns took on the Austin Blacks. Similar to three weeks ago, the Huns started off strong, so when the second half kicked off, we were eager to see the Blacks bite back. But it never came. The Huns seemingly cruised over the Blacks, winning 31-7. In the third place match, the Blacks would defend their third-place standing on the table with a 28-17 win over the Dallas Harlequins, giving them two table points to the Harlequins one.
Then there were two, and to no surprise the two were the big guns, the head honchos, the bullies on the playground of Texas 7’s (just kidding); the Austin Huns and the Dallas RFC. Each had a win under their belt; Austin had the season opener at Lone Star 7’s (TOLA), then Dallas stole the show at Bloodfest (Qualifier). Now on neutral ground, it was all up for grabs again. Each team played their own unique style of rugby – Austin relying on consistency and team cohesion to attack the Dallas defense and finally exploit a hole; while Dallas threw the kitchen sink at Austin, mixing it up between big forward runs, speedy backs stepping around the outside, and a couple kicks down the middle just to mix it up. In this battle of consistency versus risk and reward, it was the risk takers who took it home; Dallas RFC 40-14 over the Austin Huns. With this win, Dallas RFC gained six more points, leaving Austin four.
RRRC - Women
The Women played in a combined bracket, and we’ll cover that all at once. There were six women’s sides competing at Hell or High Water, three each in two pools.
The sHARCs second team (sHARCs Blue) were in a pool with the Austin Valkyries and the Round Rock Rage. Austin finished 2-0, dominating the sHARCs Blue 36-5 and Round Rock Rage 29-7. sHARCs Blue were 1-1, beating the winless Rage 19-0. Austin would get a bye to the semifinals, while the Rage and the sHARCs blue would battle against the two lowest seeds in the other pool for the chance to continue onward.
The sHARCs top team (sHARCs Red) were matched up against Dallas RFC and the Grand Prairie Lady Mavericks. The sHARCs impressed as we expected, 31-7 over the Lady Mavericks and 27-5 over Dallas RFC. The Mavericks opened their day with a 14-7 win over Dallas RFC to give them a 1-1 finish and the higher seed to enter the play-in matches.
In the play-ins, Dallas RFC matched up against sHARCs Blue while the Lady Mavericks took on the Round Rock Rage. Dallas found their footing and scored 19 to the sHARCs 5, granting them the berth to the semifinals. The Lady Mavericks also took the win, defeating Round Rock Rage 28-0. This would slot them against the Austin Valkyries in the semifinals. In the consolation round, Rage would end winless, as sHARCs Blue won 28-0.
The semifinals were the two 2-0 teams from pool play, Austin and sHARCs Red, against the winners of the play-ins, Grand Prairie Lady Mavericks and Dallas RFC. Grand Prairie must’ve been on a roll, because they took down Austin an impressive 24-7, earning their place in the final. On the other side, RRRC qualifier-seeking sHARCs toppled Dallas 28-0. In the third place match, Dallas proved their strength against a tough Austin side, as they took the bronze 36-12.
The final pitted the hosts sHARCs Red against the Grand Prairie Mavericks, who had fought tooth and nail to emerge from the play-in matches and were seeking their first final win. An inspiring battle followed, as Grand Prairie surprised sHARCs, coming out of the gates firing. sHARCs might have stumbled, but they had their eyes on the prize, and the qualifying points were up for grabs. It came down to the end, but the hosts defended their title and claimed the trophy, 28-19 over the Lady Mavericks. With only two teams going for RRRC points, sHARCs Red (finishing 1st overall) got the full six, and Austin (finishing 4th overall, 2nd RRRC) received 4; more or less putting them out of the running for Nationals (see more on that below).
Now for the “what happens next”, let’s check out the table. On the women’s side it’s only sHARCs and the Austin Valkyries competing. If both teams go to the last qualifier and no new teams add, there is no way for Austin to overtake the sHARCs. Technically if three new qualifier teams decided to participate just for the Choctaw 7’s, and ALL managed to beat sHARCs while also losing to Austin, then theoretically Austin could get 6 points and sHARCs could get zero or one; allowing Austin to advance. That’s way too many unrealistic “ifs” though. So its going to be Houston qualifying for Nationals.
On the men’s side it also seems pretty wrapped up, but the “ifs” are a bit more realistic. Dallas is four points ahead of the Austin Huns. If Dallas wins at Choctaw, Dallas qualifies for Nationals. If Austin Huns beat Dallas in the final of Choctaw, Dallas still qualifies for Nationals. If Austin Huns win Choctaw, and Dallas loses in the semifinals AND the third-place ranking game (or doesn’t even make the top four), then Austin Huns advance to Nationals. There are a couple more scenarios where Austin or Dallas finish outside of the top four, but that seems quite far-fetched based on how the season has been unfolding. Now this top seed gets the automatic invite to Club Nationals, but there are still a few more at-Large seeds available, and should a Texas team wish to bid for one of them, they’ll still have to prove an impressive resume; and Choctaw could be the place to get it.
The latter half of the Women’s Premier/Open and the Men’s Open brackets played for TOLA points. Finally we got some clarity on the standings table, as the RRRC-qualifying clubs were knocked out of the top and we no longer have four-way ties.
Dallas RFC – White
Austin Huns – Blue
Austin Huns – Gold
sHARCs – Blue
TOLA - Men
The Men’s TOLA sides competed in the Open bracket, with the exception of San Antonio, who played up and thus received top TOLA points. The open brackets had two pools of three teams each.
Dallas RFC-White headed up Pool 1, with the Woodlands and a motley side named the SPERMS. No I don’t have more information; I sure wish I did. Anyway, the SPERMS did not swim to success in Pool 1, losing both matches and dropping to the consolation play-ins after going 0-2. Dallas RFC went 1-1 after an opening defeat to the Woodlands 10-7. The Woodlands got the bye to the semifinals after going 2-0.
This pool hosted the Austin Huns-Blue, the Houston Arrows, and Grand Prairie Mavericks’ second side. The Austin Huns-Blue went 2-0, downing both the Arrows and the Mavericks second side with a combined [+29] PD. Arrows Sevens put up an impressive fight against the Huns, managing to score three of their own tries to the Huns 5. They also topped the Mavericks by a try to finish 1-1. The Mavericks finished 0-2 to enter the consolation play-in rounds.
Seeking a place in the semifinal, Dallas-White dominated Grand Prairie Mavericks 2 31-0, while the SPERMS finally peaked over the Arrows Sevens 17-7. Playing down for fifth and sixth place, the Grand Prairie Mavericks 2 saved the best for last, and got their only win of the day over the Arrows, 28-0, to finish fifth and receive two TOLA points to the Arrows’ one.
The semifinals were set with Dallas-White taking on the Austin Huns-Blue and the Woodlands fighting the SPERMS. Dallas against Austin was thrilling as ever, as drama spikes whenever these two face off on the pitch. Austin held close, but Dallas found one more score and advanced to the final 17-14. The Woodlands seemed re-energized by the break and toppled the SPERMS 29-0. In the third place match, Austin Huns blanked the SPERMS 28-0 to finish with four table points, essential for them to hold second on the overall standings.
The final was a wild affair, Dallas-White fueled by their brothers who were set to take the stage after them, while the Woodlands were bolstered by the confidence their impressive day had given them. In the end it was a seven-point affair, and it was the Woodlands who were crowned champions with a 26-19 defeat of Dallas-White. Dallas remains on top of the TOLA table thanks to the five points for second place, and Woodlands comfortably sits in third tied with San Antonio.
TOLA - Women
We largely covered the women’s bracket above. As for the points spread – the Lady Mavericks take the lions’ share, vaulting them into first place in the standings. With a third place finish, Dallas RFC are close behind in second overall. The Dallas Harlequins did not participate in Hell or High Water, but still remain in third, closely followed by the sHARCs 2nd side, who took 5th overall this past weekend.
No need to wait for more excitement to unfold; the next TOLA tournament is almost here! River City 7’s hosted by the Austin Blacks at Burr Field is scheduled for THIS Saturday, July 16th. Come watch live for yourself and see how the TOLA shakes out after Week 4.
For more information on the TRU TOLA and RRRC 7’s Series you can check out our website.