Photo: Diane Ramage
Atlantis is the Las Vegas Invitational Girls’ High School Elite 7s champion, defeating New Zealand academy Tahi Kaha 22-14 in Friday’s final.
The 12-team division featured U.S. teams – most of which were select sides or academies – as well as Canadian, Australian and New Zealand sides. Tahi Kaha, a rugby academy based in Auckland, New Zealand, entered the LVI with three tournament titles (Pacifica, Tauranga Invitational, Cook Island 7s) behind them this season. The players are strong, fast and skilled, and defeated Utah Academy 28-17, South Bay 31-5 and USA South Panthers 36-0 during pool play. The academy side shut out Sydney City 55-0 in the Cup quarterfinals and then edged Atavus 21-19 in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, Atlantis put up equally impressive numbers, defeating British Columbia Elite Youth (BCEY) 33-19, Glendale 48-0 and Play Rugby CODP 43-0 on day one. Atlantis faced Play Rugby and BCEY in the Cup quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, winning 45-0 and 29-21.
The finalists entered their sixth game of the tournament after trying semifinals, and it was Tahi Kaha that scored first for the early lead.
“[Tahi Kaha] was an extremely physical team. They were very fast and very big, and dominated contact,” Atlantis captain Emily Henrich said. “It was hard to tackle them, and once they got some [headway], they could power through. They were more physical than any other team we played, and we weren’t ready for it.”
Atlantis was trailing at the half, but the team made some adjustments – finishing tackles and adding quick support so offloads weren’t possible – and it made the difference.
“We stopped making little mistakes and got out of our heads and being so mental about it,” Henrich described how the team relaxed in the second half. “We knew when to commit at rucks and to go out and play defense. When we were more level-headed, we got going.”
The tries followed, and that further pumped up the squad. Tournament MVP Ellie Kildunne of England scored twice, while Henrich and Clara Lemal-Brown also dotted down. Kildunne also added a conversion to the 22-14 win.
It was the type of high-skilled, dramatic game for which one hopes in a final. It’s unfortunate that it wasn’t contested in Sam Boyd Stadium the way it was in 2016.
Also, Atlantis’ Open team rebounded from three pool play losses to win the Bowl on day two, and Tahi Kaha will be back in action next weekend to play at the Vancouver 7s.
ATLANTIS GIRLS’ U18 ELITE
Megan Bird – Oak Creek, Wisc.
Maya de Waal – Kelvin HS, Winnipeg, CAN
Alex DiMarco (c) – White Horse, Pa.
Kat Gearhart – Penn, Ind.
Emily Henrich (c) – Orchard Park, N.Y.
Ellie Kildunne (MVP) – Hartpury, Gloucester, ENG
Clara Lemal-Brown – Hudson, Ohio
Alex Pipkin – North Bay, Md.
Alie Ramage – Morris, N.J.
Dex Taylor – San Diego, Calif.
Ella Wyrwas – Hartpury, Gloucester, ENG
GIRLS HS ELITE 7s SCORES
Atlantis 22-14 Tahi Kaha
Atlantis 29-21 BCEY
Tahi Kaha 21-19 Atavus
Atlantis 45-0 Play Rugby
BCEY 19-7 Utah Cannibals
Atavus 26-19 South Bay
Tahi Kaha 55-0 Sydney City
Utah Cannibals 33-0 Play Rugby
Sydney City 17-10 South Bay
Utah Academy 7-0 USA South Panthers
Cobra Academy 31-10 Glendale
USA South Panthers 24-10 Glendale
Utah Academy 24-5 Cobra Academy
Atavus 19-10 Sydney City
Atavus 20-7 Cobra Academy
Atavus 19-10 Utah Cannibals
Utah Cannibals 28-0 Cobra Academy
Utah Cannibals 24-12 Sydney City
Sydney City 35-0 Cobra Academy
Atantis 33-19 BCEY
Atlantis 48-0 Glendale
Atlantis 43-0 Play Rugby
BCEY 14-7 Play Rugby
BCEY 59-0 Glendale
Play Rugby 33-0 Glendale
Tahi Kaha 28-17 Utah Academy
Tahi Kaha 31-5 South Bay
Tahi Kaha 36-0 USA South Panthers
South Bay 29-10 USA South Panthers
South Bay 12-10 Utah Academy
Utah Academy 20-10 USA South Academy