The Tight 5 Sevens is back for its fifth year!!! This event allows the bigger forwards and older players a shot at not just playing 7s but a real chance as wining a rugby 7s tournament! The Tight 5 Sevens is an effort that Jacob Nelson created five years ago.
Jacob Nelson is a front rower who has worked his way up the ranks for San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG), playing with their DII, then to DI, and finally their Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP) side. He also was under contract for a stint with PRO Rugby and is a certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (you can see some of this stuff on YouTube). This feature is not really about Jacob (although he’s an interesting rugger and now thinking about it we may need to do a story on him, but rather on the Tight 5 Sevens that he’s brought to the States).
Jacob first experienced Tight 5 Sevens about five years ago when he was in New Zealand and saw a Tight 5 Sevens tourney in Hamilton. He (being a prop) through this would be a fun experience for a lot of the guys back home. So Jacob did some research and could find only one other formally organized Tight 5 Sevens, which was in the United Kingdom and that was done more to get guys to come out. So he through it was a perfect opportunity to try and do one here in California.
Now Jacob is based out of the Bay Area and he plays with SFGG, so that was where he opted to launch this operation. He’s for the most part dumped his own money into the tournament and gets some logistic support from SFGG (such as that great pitch, club house on Treasure Island and some volunteers). The first year Jacob really winged it and said they had about seven teams entered and had about 150 people total that day. The second year (last year) the Tight 5 Sevens saw 12 men’s teams participating with four women’s teams and there were about 450-500 people that showed up. “We’ve had teams Seattle come before and have gotten inquiries from a team from Denver who are interested in coming to this year’s tournament”.
So we asked Jacob the most pressing question; how does this work? We get its mainly teams made up for tight five forwards (props, hookers, and locks) but what if a team opts to enter a bunch of young and fast backs, won’t that play to their favor??? This is where it gets good. “We have a formula that we use for the Tight 5 Sevens that tips it in favor of the older and bigger players” say Jacob. “Teams get a points for age and weight. So each team gets a point per player for every pound over 220. They also get a point for every year a player has over the age of 31”. This system creates a “handicap”, like in golf for the teams, so a team of young bucks may have no points. A team of 10 guys over sixty who are all say 300lbs will get 1090 points to start. So to beat them by the end of the day the team of youngsters or backs would have to score at least 1090 points to beat them. Now when you get actual Tight 5 Sevens teams it can become more competitive where the tries can close the gaps and/or make the games more competitive. Last year’s tournament MVP was a younger guy from Marin, but he was near 300lbs and played well getting his team points and tries.
“Now can a team sign up, show up and win at the weight-in? Sure, but most old boys or guys who show up will want to get a few runs in before setting down for beers and just watching the rest play out” explains Jacob. “We’ve had old boys, legends who’ve booted up and played all out. An SFGG and all around rugby legend Mike Comstock booted up one day and played every game all out as did his team that day, so guys get into it” recalls Jacob. “I saw my old coach Mike Caravelli boot up at one of these to play in a game. He hadn’t played in years and none of us who had played for him had seen him play so it was really great to see these guys get back out there” shared Jacob.
The best game so far Jacob shared was one that featured Mike Comstock (we’ll do a full piece on him soon). “It was a watching a 3 minute goal line-stand! These guys just defended a pick and go from the 5m line for close to three minutes. And the defense was 100% into stopping the opponents. They were all low in football stance, low to the ground and attacking the run each time” recalled Jacob.
This year could be even better as Jacob hopes to have more teams (and it could result in needing a second field). While the Tight 5 Sevens hopes to grow the tournament, they did say in the end they are working to create the most fun and have to balance and manage the demand and the ability to provide quality. Jacob said “its about having fun, and also allowing it to be competitive, but we don’t want some 20 year old to be laying out some old man and think he’s accomplished something. If you are doing that to a team with a 400 point handicap it because they are really old or not in shape. No one is impressed. Its still about the rugby sprit”.
The games are 7 minute halves, but for the championship the game is cut down to two 5 minuet halves. The tournament is over by 5:30pm, and while it’s been a hot summer the weather for rugby is ideal in the middle of the San Francisco Bay (Treasure Island). The tournament has four women’s sides so far and is open for registration from more teams. This year tournament plans to feature some live music as well and allow for socializing.
The Tight 5 Sevens will also feature some tournament gear in the form of shirts, hats and hoodies. The tournament will be working with the Rugby Ethos for the shirt this year which will make them more accessible and also reduce costs to the tournament.
Jacob said “the teams don’t have to enter under their official name, or even under team name, they can enter under any name they want”. Also the tournament rewards the person who pays their side’s registration. “We know it’s hard to get payment early for rugby events and ruggers, its just the way it is. Usually one guy has to front the money and then try and collate from his side, so to reward those brave guys I always try and reward them. It may be a shirt, extra beer, something to thank them for stepping up” say Jacob.
The tourney website www.tightfivesevens.com (under some construction) still has tons of information on the tournament as well as their Facebook Page, you can contact them directly at email@example.com or find tournament info on Rugby Ethos’ page. There is way more info on the page that we didn’t provide. You can register on-line and save your team’s spot now. The fee per team is just $200 (that is cheap with you break it down by player and think about the venue on Treasure Island).
Disclaimer from the Tournament: Parking is abundant and FREE however, San Francisco is now the smash & grab capital of California so DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN YOUR CAR. They will have folks walking the parking lot to deter any would be thieves but SFGG and the Tight 5 Sevens are NOT responsible for lost or stolen items. Bring your stuff in the gates with you and stay a while.
We hope this year's tourney will see an increase in teams and really help put yet another great California rugby event on the national map.