News | Aug. 22, 2021

Navy tops Air Force to win first Armed Forces Men’s Rugby Championship

By Mr. Steven Dinote, U.S. Armed Forces Sports Secretariat U.S. Armed Forces Sports

In the heart of the Rocky Mountains emerged new champions at Infinity Park in the City of Glendale, Colo. this Saturday as Navy defeated Air Force 14-7 to win their first Armed Forces 7’s Rugby Championship. The Armed Forces Championship is held in conjunction with the Rugbytown 7’s Tournament from 20-22 August.

Navy Petty Officer Second Class Wilson Vasukilakeba of North Island Naval Air Station, Calif. put Navy on the board first fighting and clawing to the try zone. 

Lieut. Adam D’Amico of Naval Shipyard Portsmouth, Va. converted the try to put Navy up 7-0. 

Navy Ensign Collin Argue of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. stutter-stepped pass the Air Force defenders and broke away for the try. D’Amico converted his second kick to expand Navy’s lead 14-0. 

In the final play of the first half, Senior Airman Atoa Ripley of Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. intercepted Navy’s throw and broke away to the zone giving Air Force their first points of the match.  

Navy and Air Force tightened up their defenses in the second half not allowing either side anymore points.

As the horn sounded, the Navy bench rushed the field in jubilation with their first Armed Forces Sevens title. 

Air Force finished with silver and Coast Guard placed third in the Armed Forces Championship.  

After the match, Glendale Mayor Mr. Mike Dunafon and Mr. Matt Perciak, Coast Guard Morale, Well-Being, and Recreation Director and Coast Guard Member of the Armed Forces Sports Council, handed out the awards to gold and silver medalist.  

At the conclusion of the Armed Forces Championship awards ceremony, Service members from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard lined up for the annual wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate Fallen Ruggers. 

With bagpipes playing in the background, team captains from each team laid rugby balls in front of wreaths. With the sun shining, the sky opened up with a gentle rain until the last ball was laid down.  

THE LEAD UP

Air Force opened the Armed Forces Championship with a 14-0 victory over Coast Guard. 

After defeating Coast Guard 22-0, Navy faced Air Force Friday night as the sun settled behind the mountains in what would become the preview of Saturday’s championship match. 

Navy and Air Force went back and forth reaching the scoreboard, but Navy prevailed in the end winning 17-14. 

“We realized that Air Force would come out with guns blazing”, said Navy Coach Koma Gandy-Fischbein of Bryn Mawr, Pa. 

“We probably surprised them with that victory…so we knew that we had to keep the gas on and not assume anything and play the game our way.  We could not rest on the fact that we beat them once, but we had to make sure that we stay mentally focused and bring our game to them and give us the best change at victory.”

RUGBY IN ARMED FORCES

Armed Forces Rugby moved to the sevens format in 2012 after rugby was recognized as an Olympic sport. It was then that the City of Glendale graciously began hosting the Armed Forces Championship, which soon became embedded in the Rugbytown 7’s Tournament.  

Prior to the move to sevens, the Air Force captured eight-straight 15-aside gold medals from 2004-2011.  

Rugby was formally recognized as an Armed Forces event in 2000, after many years operating as a Combined Services Championship. It was under this previous format that Navy last reached the top of the podium, when they won gold in 1993.  

RUGBYTOWN USA

With the 2020 Rugbytown 7’s Tournament cancelled due to the pandemic, 20 teams made their way to Glendale for the annual tournament.

In this year’s tournament, Army and Marine Corps officially withdrew from the event, leaving just Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard to compete for Armed Forces gold. 

Rugbytown 7’s features four pools of five teams. The Armed Forces round robin is held in Pool A, followed by the championship match highlighting the top two teams. 

After the Armed Forces Championship match, Service teams compete in the quarterfinal brackets of the overall tournament.

Matches continue through Sunday, 22 August.

For more information on the 2021 Armed Forces Men’s Rugby Championship, visit www.armedforcessports.defense.gov for links to photos, stats and more.  Visit www.rugbytown7s.com for further information on the Rugbytown 7’s tournament.