GLENDALE, Colo. (Aug. 28, 2016) -- The Army captured their fourth straight title at the 2016 Armed Forces Rugby Sevens Championship at Infinity Park, home of Rugbytown USA (Glendale, Colo.), Aug. 26-27.
Army dominated pool-play going 4-0 against teams from the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard in the Armed Forces Championship division of the world-class Serevi RugbyTown Sevens Tournament, which also drew teams from across the United States, Canada, UK, Bermuda and the Bahamas.
After defeating the Marine Corps 27-7, Air Force reached the Championship match for their fifth straight year and aimed at a rematch against their 41-0 opening loss against Army.
Army’s Spc. Rocco Mauer of Utah National Guard scored four tries in the Championship, as Army routed the Air Force 55-5 for gold.
“When we played Air Force in the final, we knew that Air Force learned some lessons in the tournament” said Army Head Coach Col. Mark Drown. “We’ve seen them improve and get a higher scoring margin as the games continued. This win is huge emotionally and for reward and effort, it’s been fantastic.”
“Feels good,” said Army team captain Capt. Andrew Locke of the World Class Athlete Program. “We had some lean years during the Global War on Terrorism. Air Force dominated during the 2000’s, so it feels good now to get our program set.”
The 2016 Armed Forces Championship returned to the City of Glendale for its fifth straight year and is held in conjunction with the Serevi Rugbytown 7’s Tournament, one of the top tournaments in the nation. The Service branches compete in a round robin, pool-play format to determine the top two teams that advance to the Armed Forces Championship match.
During pool play, Army outscored their opponents 125-21. Air Force and Marine Corps each defeated Coast Guard and Navy as they led into the final match of the Armed Forces pool-play with records of 2-1. After quick scores by both squads, Air Force kept their foot on the gas and overran the Marines 27-7.
The Marine Corps finished third overall with a record of 2-2, as Navy (1-3) finished fourth and Coast Guard (0-4) finished fifth.
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS
“The formula started five years ago,” said Drown. “For us to be successful, we needed to find a network of young players, some veteran players and establishing a work ethic and code of conduct among our rugby community.”
“We focus on getting the right guys,” said Locke. “When you’re in the 13th and 14th minute and you have to dig deep, you really have to dig deep for the guys to the left and right of you. It’s no different if you’re in a platoon or a rugby team. You got to believe that I have to dig deep for the guy next to me.”
The Armed Forces Rugby Championship is the only Armed Forces competition where all Five Service branches are represented individually, with the Coast Guard competing as their own squad. Normally, Coast Guard athletes compete with the Navy throughout the year.
This camaraderie is evident in the selection of the Armed Forces All-Tournament Team, which selected the best seven players of the Championship. The selections were:
Army: 1st Lt. Will Holder of Fort Carson, Colo. and Sgt. Rocco Mauer
Marine Corps: 2nd lt. Grant Penney of Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif.
Navy: Lt. j.g. Ricky Neel-Feller of Naval Station Bremerton, Wash. and Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Fletcher of Andrews AFB, M.D.
Air Force: Senior Airman Ben Haapapuro of Los Angeles AFB, Calif.
Coast Guard: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jethro Hauser of Air Station Clearwater, Fla.
Despite the fierce competition among the Service branches, the mission for all teams is to continue to grow the Rugby program within the Armed Forces. Tentatively, the Services are looking to assemble to compete in Vancouver next spring, with Drown at the helm once again.
“We look for that player who is running off the ball and supporting off the ball,” said Drown. “Not the guy who is just running in and darting through people. It’s very flashy and draws the eye…Also, what kind of person and character he is. We’re looking for the whole-man model for the Armed Forces Player.”
In addition to the Armed Forces Men’s program, both Drown and Locke have been instrumental in the development and advancement of the Armed Forces Women’s Rugby Program. Recently, Locke returned from the 2016 Rio Olympics as a coach for the USA Women’s National Team. He plans to use this experience and continue the charge of getting the Women’s program on the map, both within the Department of Defense and on the National stage.
Visit www.armedforcessports.defense.gov for more information and photos.
Complete Match Results:
Match 1: Army 41 - Air Force 0
Match 2: Navy 15 - Coast Guard 10
Match 3: Army 29 - Marines 7
Match 4: Air Force 38 - Navy 5
Match 5: Army 26 - Navy 7
Match 6: Air Force 14 - Coast Guard 5
Match 7: Marines 19 - Coast Guard 14
Match 8: Army 29 - Coast Guard 7
Match 9: Marines 17 - Navy 14
Match 10: Air Force 27 - Marines 7
Championship: Army 55 - Air Force 5