Danny Autrey of the Kenai River Wolfpack passes under pressure from Dalton Morris, Summit Wiman and Cross Gray of the Hermit CRABS at the 2022 Kenai Dipnet Fest Rugby Tournament on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Danny Autrey of the Kenai River Wolfpack passes under pressure from Dalton Morris, Summit Wiman and Cross Gray of the Hermit CRABS at the 2022 Kenai Dipnet Fest Rugby Tournament on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Anchortown, Manu Bears win Dipnet Fest Rugby Tourney

Anchortown won the women’s title and the Manu Bears won the men’s title at the 2022 Kenai Dipnet Fest Rugby Tournament at Millennium Square in Kenai on Saturday.

In the women’s championship, Anchortown held a 5-0 lead over Fairbanks Ravens at halftime when the game was stopped due to a Ravens player sustaining a concussion.

In the men’s championship, the Manu Bears defeated the Hermit CRABS 16-12.

Dan Balmer, the team president of Kenai River Wolfpack and also the tournament organizer, said there were a number of firsts at the tournament.

For the first time, a men’s team came up from the Lower 48 to play in the tournament, which was started by Fred Koski in 2010.

The Hermit CRABS came up from Butte, Montana, to play. The reason the Hermit CRABS came up is Sam “Sue” Warner, who is from Fairbanks. Warner had always liked the Dipnet Fest event because it falls near his birthday on July 17.

The Hermit CRABS are Warner’s college alumni team from Montana Tech. There were 20 players that made the trip.

The squad was greeted by several other firsts. Balmer said this was the first time in his eight years of organizing the tournament that there was rain. Balmer also said it was the longest day of rugby in any tourney he’s organized, with games between the seven men’s teams and three women’s teams starting at 11 a.m. and ending at about 8 p.m.

The Hermit CRABS narrowly missed becoming the first Lower 48 team to win the men’s title. Both teams had two tries in the final, but it came down to the conversions, which are normally worth two points.

The Hermit CRABS were one for two on conversions. At Dipnet Fest, a conversion can be worth three points if the attempt ends up in the net of the dipnets that serve as posts. Manu Bears flyhalf Faaolataga Siaulaiga managed to kick both of his conversions into the net in the final.

Balmer said it’s the first time a player has kicked into the net twice in one game.

Despite Siaulaiga’s incredible conversions, the Hermit CRABS still almost won. Richard Weber nearly had a try that would have won the tourney, but the referee ruled that Weber lost control of the ball just before touching it down in the try zone.

The Kenai River Wolfpack finished 1-3 at the tournament.

In the opening game of the tournament, the Wolfpack lost 10-5 to the Hermit CRABS in a game played in heavy rain. Longtime Kenai player Brian Johnson scored his first try for the Wolfpack in the game.

The Wolfpack then lost 17-12 to Barbos. Kenai was down 12-5 before Connor Doyle, who plays for Bore Tide and was a reserve with Kenai, got his second try of the game. The conversion was good, sending the game to sudden death. George Damien-Smith, who also plays for Bore Tide, scored the winning try for Barbos.

In the quarterfinals, Kenai won due to a Barbos forfeit. Kenai then lost 42-0 to the Manu Bears in the semifinals.

The Wolfpack got help all weekend from Ryan Childers, who lives in Bellingham, Washington, and plays for the Chuckanut Bay GeoDucks program. Childers lived in Kenai 14 years ago, but the Wolfpack had not been started yet.

Balmer, who played for the Chuckanut team for one season in 2013 before moving to Kenai, convinced Childers to come up and play. Balmer said Childers was recognized as the top forward for Kenai, even though Childers plays primarily back positions.

In the women’s tournament, Anchortown finished 3-0, Fairbanks Ravens were 1-2 and the Arctice Foxes were 0-2.

The results were Anchortown 25, Foxes 0; Anchortown 12, Ravens 7; and Ravens 10, Foxes 5.

The records in the men’s tournament were the CRABS at 3-1, Barbos at 1-2, Bore Tide at 1-3, Fairbanks Sundawgs at 2-1, Manu Bears at 3-1 and Yetis at 1-2.

Results were Manu Bears beat Yetis by forfeit; Sundawgs defeat Bore Tide; CRABS defeat Manu Bears; Yetis defeat Bore Tide; and Sundawgs defeat Barbos.

In the quarterfinals, the CRABS got a bye; Bore Tide topped Fairbanks 22-14; and Manu Bears topped Yetis 21-14.

In the other semifinal, the CRABS topped Bore Tide 29-5.

Balmer thanked Ryan Tunseth, the owner of East Rip, for sponsorship. The City of Kenai let the Wolfpack use a large tent for hosting, while The Back Door Lounge hosted a social after the tournament.

Ryan Childers of the Kenai River Wolfpack tries to evade Hermit CRABS players Sam “Sue” Warner (front) and Steven Ganley on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at the 2022 Kenai Dipnet Fest Rugby Tournament at Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Ryan Childers of the Kenai River Wolfpack tries to evade Hermit CRABS players Sam “Sue” Warner (front) and Steven Ganley on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at the 2022 Kenai Dipnet Fest Rugby Tournament at Millennium Square in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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