In this summary we are going to cover both Week 4 of TOLA (River City 7’s in Austin,TX) and Week 5 of TOLA/RRRC (Choctaw 7’s in Durant, OK).*
To start, the RRRC Qualifiers are now done and dusted, with the third having taken place in Oklahoma this past weekend. On the men’s side, the Dallas RFC clinched the only guaranteed berth at Nationals and will represent the TRU / Red River Conference in St. Louis, MO, during the second weekend in August. The Austin Huns finished second, followed closely by the Austin Blacks who managed to put the pieces together just a weekend too late. On the Women’s side, the sHARCs head to Nationals after a clean sweep in Texas, edging out the Austin Valkyries – the only other women’s side who played for RRRC qualifying points.
To recap the highs and the lows – we’ve decided to break it down by team:
Dallas RFC: The men in red are headed back to Club 7’s! Dallas swept the RRRC qualifiers, taking first in all three tournaments after falling to the Austin Huns in the opening TOLA tournament just a week before Bloodfest. Those trying times seem to be behind them though, as Dallas once again steamed through pool play in Durant, blanking three opponents before facing a tough Austin Huns side in the semi-final. With the win over the Huns, it was then guaranteed that Dallas was going through to Nationals, regardless of the final’s outcome. But we all know Dallas isn’t one to let a trophy slip through their fingers, and who doesn’t want a clean sweep. So, on to St. Louis. And how will Dallas fare competing against the champions from other regions? We hope well, as they are representing the Red River Rugby Conference. Dallas will have to put the bleak memory of the last Club 7s Nationals behind them, and try to forge new ground as they chase the dream of being Club Champions in both XVs and 7s (a battle half won).
Austin Huns: After a glorious start to their 7’s season, the Huns are stuck in second place after Dallas, again. The Huns faced Dallas four times in five tournaments, winning only once, losing twice in the final, and once this past weekend in the semifinal; a tough go for any team. Despite those losses, they represented well in the TRU; their calm and collected attack frustrating opponents as they methodically hit the defensive line and exploited gaps. Austin maintained a 4-1 record against their local rivals the Austin Blacks, had two TOLA tournament wins, and two 2nd place finishes in RRRC. Austin was unlucky to have missed the wildcard pick for Club Nationals, as their 5th place finish last year was the highest of all RRRC teams participating. We look forward to seeing the multiple Huns sides participating in the last two TOLA tournaments, as the boys in blue never turn down a chance to play some footy.
Austin Blacks: Typically regarded as the powerhouse in XVs, the Austin Blacks managed to piece together a fiery side for 7’s. Each weekend saw the Blacks improving, and finally led to a final podium finish in Durant, OK this past weekend. When you break it down, over five tournaments, Austin really only lost to two teams. Unfortunately they kept losing to those same teams, leaving them in third place in the standings. They went undefeated in pool play in three of five tournaments; and made the semifinals in all five, reaching the final in both River City 7’s and this past weekend in Durant, OK. Should the season have been longer, we think that the Blacks would have continued to mesh and made a good run at Dallas and the Austin Huns.
Dallas Harlequins: The Quins had a great run this season, playing against some incredibly stiff competition. They managed to reach the semifinals in two of the qualifying tournaments, missing out on Bloodfest to NOLA, but retaining the fourth place qualifier points because NOLA was playing for TOLA points. The Quins were never an easy opponent, scattering even the best competition. The Harlequins won the Plate Final at Lone Star, the Premier Bowl Final at Bloodfest, and the Plate Final at Choctaw; proof that the Harlequins push to the final minute and never give up.
sHARCs: On the women’s side, the ladies from Houston punched their ticket to St. Louis without much of a fight. Firstly, they were the only team that participated in all three qualifiers; and after winning the first two, this past weekend was more a matter of formality in the qualification process. The sHARCs are a threat across the board; they’ve got speedsters on the outside and size up the middle. What really sets the sHARCs apart is their ‘never give up’ mindset. They will do whatever it takes to stay in the game, and when it comes down to the wire, they are cool under pressure. Taking into account their impressive performance in the Women’s D1 competition in XV, we are certain they have all the pieces to put together a National 7’s run that exceeds all expectations.
Austin Valkyries: The other team participating in the Women’s Qualifier bracket were the ladies from Austin, the ever-strong Valkyries. The Valks have had a bit of a rebuilding year, and are working hard at not just winning on the pitch, but winning off the pitch and building a strong group of women in the core of their program. While focusing on that, they still had brilliant moments on the pitch and performed valiantly at two of three qualifiers as well as River City 7’s. Austin won the Plate Final at Bloodfest and 3rd place at River City.
The TOLA Competition has just finished Week 5, and is heading into Week 6 at Cherrybone Tournament in The Woodlands, TX. The standings look very different between the men’s and the women’s sides, and we’ll get into why below.
sHARCs 2 (tie)
Lady Quins (tie)
On the Women’s side, we’ve had more participation across the regions than ever before.
At the top of the table, the only women’s team to have participated in all five stops are the Grand Prairie Lady Mavericks. The Lady Mavericks have top TOLA points from both Hell or Highwater and Choctaw 7’s where they lost to the sHARCs, who were competing for RRRC points. Grand Prairie play a very physical, dynamic style of play; competing fiercely at the breakdown and laying on massive hits to stun the competition. With only two tournaments remaining, it will be difficult for any team to prevent Grand Prairie from taking home their first ever TOLA championship.
In second place are the women of the Dallas RFC, who have participated in four of the five tournaments. Highlights from the Dallas season include a second place finish in the Women’s Open division of Bloodfest after an impressive win over the Lady Quins in the semifinal. They also took third in Hell or High Water, beating the Austin Valkyries. Dallas are within distance of catching Grand Prairie and winning the TOLA Championship, but it’s going to take at least one championship win to make that possible.
Tied for third are the sHARCs TOLA side and the Lady Harlequins from Dallas. Both teams are only one standing point behind Dallas RFC and are theoretically also within distance of winning the TOLA Championship. Both teams have a single TOLA Championship under their belt, with Lady Quins winning Lone Star 7’s and sHARCs taking home the hardware from River City 7’s. Both teams have also only played in three of the five tournaments, so if they are to step up and participate in the last two, there is a good chance that these standings could see some serious change before the Championship in Shreveport.
The TOLA Men’s standings are a bit more spread out than the women’s for a number of reasons. One, there are more men’s teams on average that participate in a single TOLA tournament (16 men’s sides versus 5 women’s). The men also have a RRRC-qualifying team that ranks in their top four, because that team has gotten first at the two TOLA-only tournaments they’ve participated in. Let’s go through the rankings.
Similar to the women, the top of the table is the only team that has participated in all five TOLA events. See a trend here? Dallas RFC’s second side picked up their first cup win in the Men’s Open bracket of Choctaw this past weekend, but proved that consistency is key as their top-5 finishes across the season have vaulted them into a strong lead with only two weeks to go. With Dallas’ first side claiming the RRRC spot in the 7’s National Championship Tournament, the Reds seem to be on a mission to stack that trophy cabinet.
The club that are hot on their heels are the Austin Huns. The Austin Huns surprisingly have both their top and second side in the top 4 of TOLA; White (1) are ranked second, and Blue (2) are ranked third. Austin Huns-Gold, their third side, are tied for sixth, but we can’t just write a whole article about the Huns so I’ll ignore that for now. How exactly have the Huns-White managed to pull out this second place standing in both the TOLA and RRRC? Well, they’ve won first in both of the TOLA-only tournaments that they’ve played in. With their dreams at Nationals crushed, the Huns might just round out the season with TOLA and give Dallas a run for their money. The second Austin Huns side are sitting two points behind their brethren, and also still within distance of catching Dallas and winning their title themselves. Could Huns 2 beat Huns 1 in a head to head competition? I don’t know, but I’m very eager to watch and find out.
The fourth place team currently in the TOLA standings is San Antonio with 10 table points. San Antonio played up in the premier bracket at Hell or High Water, giving them equal points to the eventual Open champions. Added to the other two tournaments they’ve participated in (Bloodfest and River City), they now stand two points below the lower Huns side, and one point above the Woodlands. If San Antonio attends the two last TOLA tournaments, they may have a chance at working their way up the ladder, though winning a championship would take a serious turn around.
So what’s left for the TOLA season? Cherrybone 7’s is this upcoming weekend in The Woodlands, TX on July 30th, followed by the TOLA Championship in Shreveport, LA on August 6th. With no team guaranteed the trophy yet, it will be a race to the finish!
Editor’s Note: *I rely greatly on tournament managers and admin to take notes of all final scores and results so my updates and our standings can be accurate; and in the past two weeks it’s been less than ideal. That being said – if you or your club feels there are any errors in the standings or results, please let me know ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org.