Team Captain and Tournament MVP Dallen Stanford receiving his two trophies
— by Amir Shoam
It was harder than one might have expected, but the U.S. has won its first gold medal of the 19th Maccabiah games yesterday (Wednesday), after defeating Israel 17-14 in the final of the rugby sevens tournament. The rugby 15s tournament will start tomorrow, but the team will hold its first match of it on Sunday, against Canada (10 a.m. EST, Wingate Institute).
“It was the best Israeli rugby team I have seen in the games,” said Head Coach Shawn Lipman, who previously won medals in them five times as a player, to the Philadelphia Jewish Voice. “The match could have gone either way. We wanted to have the level of challenge that we have prepared for, and now we know that the 15s tournament is going to be hard.”
Tries by Willie Rudman, Team Captain Dallen Stanford (tournament MVP) and Joel Cohen (5 points each), and one successful conversion kick for Standford’s try by Taylor Howden (2 points), provided the team with a promising 17-7 lead. Israel rallied back with a successfully converted try, but the U.S. managed to hold its opponent from scoring any more points.
More after the jump.
On its way to the final, the team had lost the lead in two of its three round-robin stage matches: On its first match, South Africa came back to a 12-12 draw against it after trailing 12-0. On its second match, Israel upset the score, from a 5-0 trailing to a 5-10 win. However, on its last round robin match, the U.S. thrashed Great Britain 35-0 to finish the stage second, after Israel, and win the ticket to the final match against it.
The greatest success story of the tournament, according to Lipman, was Jarett Brotz of Cherry Hill, N.J. After the trials for the team last January, the back-row forward was put on the reserve list. “We saw potential in him, but he needed to work on his fitness,” explained the Coach. As previously-qualified players could not eventually join the trip, Brotz was called to fill in. During the training in Israel, he was chosen as one of the 12 players out of 29 to participate in the seven-a-side tournament. As the tournament progressed he earned increasing playing time, and shined on the defensive side. “He will be one of our most important players in the 15s tournament,” concluded Lipman.
The opening ceremony for the Games will be held today in Jerusalem (1:30 p.m. EST, Teddy Stadium), with almost 9,000 athletes participating and 30,000 expected viewers. Many of the tournaments will start tomorrow (Friday).