Philly Sports Live

Fast and Furious: Saturday at the CRC 7s

Photo: Brian Barrish

CHESTER, Pa. (June 1) – Moreso than any other sport, things in rugby sevens can change in an instant, be it the play on the field or the scoreboard, no lead is ever secure, no possession ever easy.  Some clubs found that out the hard way on Saturday at the College Rugby Championship Sevens tournament, while others used that quickness to their advantage.  But in the end, eight teams booked themselves spots in Sunday’s quarterfinals, which a chance to unseat Dartmouth as champs.

For the top teams, and for the fans at a slightly warm PPL Park, wins during the early session set up blockbuster matches to determine who would play for the cup late in the day, and who would be playing for consolation honors.  And it wasn’t just about winning, but about playing well; aside from the winners of the five groups, the three best runners up also moved onto the quarterfinals too based on points scored.

It wasn’t the best of days for the Philly teams, as all four — Temple, St. Joe’s, Villanova, and Penn — were eliminated from quarterfinal contention after losing their early games.  Temple probably had the toughest of them all.  leading 15-0 at the half, Virginia Tech battled all the way back to cut the score to 15-10.  Then, in stoppage time of the second half, with two Owls off the field on yellow cards, the Hokies managed to cut through for the winning score, then kicked the only conversion attempt of the match in a 17-15 heartbreaker.   Big 5 bragging rights would go to St. Joseph’s, however, who beat Villanova in their Pool A clash.  All four teams will play in consolation matches on Sunday.

But it wasn’t all bad news for the local sides.  Penn State scored a 48-7 early win over Wisconsin, setting up a pivotal match against Notre Dame.  After a nervy back and forth opening stanza, Dan Metcalf put the Lions up with a try, and PSU was up 7-0 at the break.  The second half started with a Lion flurish, as Blaze Feury and Dan Taylor scored majors.  Notre Dame was unable to get anything going offensively, and the Lions’ 26-0 win gave them the Pool D title and a quarterfinal berth.

Kutztown University, playing in their first CRC championships, turned many heads with their performance over Cal.  Sporting a toughness from their forwards and a nose for the ball on defense, the East Coast’s Golden Bears handled the West Coast’s version, taking an early lead, but ultimately falling 10-5.  They then took the field against Virginia Tech, proceeded to push the Hokies around the ground for 14 minutes.  Gareth Lourens and Dolan Bruce scored two tries each in a 39-0 decision that earned them a wild card spot in the quarterfinals out of Pool C.  Cal would win the group after shellacking hapless Temple 55-0, behind Jake Anderson’s scoring.  Kutztown would squeak in as a wild card, however, and will look to shock some folks in the tournament.

UCLA and Navy hooked up to decide Pool A, after the Bruins clobbered Villanova and Navy toppled St. Joseph’s to go 2-0 earlier.  UCLA scored two early tries on the attack, but Navy countered with a second half try by Rickey Neel-Feeler to cut the score to 12-7. The Bruins then stopped Navy before patiently working the ball forward, then withstood another attack before running out the clock en route to the win and a quarterfinal birth in their first CRC appearance.

The most hyped match of the afternoon was a rematch of last year’s championship, Dartmouth vs Arizona for the top spot in Pool B.  Both teams cruised to easy wins in their second matches, and brought together arguably the two best teams in the Nation.  Madison Hughes, who lit up Wisconsin in the earlier match, scored two tries as the Big Green grabbed a 14-12 lead. Arizona’s Craig Samoy gave the ‘Cats the lead, but it was all for naught, as Kevin Clark took a pass from Hughes and ran in for the tying try, then added the winning points on the convert kick in a 21-19 win.

Pool E came down to Delaware, known for their rugby sevens program, against Life University, a rugby power that is rather unknown outside the sport’s circles.  Life had an easy morning win over Florida, while Delaware had to scrap to a 10-5 win over Texas.  After conceding the opening try, Joe Cowley got in over on the far side to cut the deficit to 7-5 at the half. Delaware scored a great try to extend their lead, but Life was able to pull even on a Nell Calvin try, and then again on a Cam Dolan scamper to win it.  Colton Carriaga’s try at the end iced it, as the 24-12 win put the Running Eagles into the quarterfinals, and knocked the unlucky Blue Hens down into consolation territory.

When the dust had settled, it was Navy, Kutztown, and Arizona who were the best runners up, and they will join the pool winners for a chance to play for the cup.   With Championship Quarterfinals set, here are the matchups:

1) California v 8) Arizona, 10:00am
2) Life University v 7) Kutztown, 10:20am
3) Penn State v 6) Navy, 10:40am
4) Dartmouth v 5) UCLA, 11:00am

Semifinal #1, Cal-Arizona winner v Dartmouth-UCLA winner 3:00pm
Semifinal #2, Life-Kutztown winner v Penn State-Navy winner 3:25pm

Championship Final, 5:29pm

All four games promise to be good, with Penn State-Kutztown being the big local draw.  Dartmouth may very well play Arizona in the semi-final, and the Wildcats will want revenge en route to stripping the title from the Big Green.

As for the other local teams, St. Joe’s and Delaware will play for the 9th place Plate, while Villanova, Penn, and Temple will play in the Sheild bracket for 17th place.

OTHER TOURNAMENTS:

Women’s tournament: Ohio State will play Penn State after both teams won their quarterfinals at Drexel University.  That final will be at 12:40pm.

NSCRO Small College Tournament: The semi-finals will pit Simpson College from Iowa against University of North Florida, as well as Occidental College from Los Angeles against the University of New England.  The winners will face off at 4:37pm in the final.

US Armed Forced Memorial Cup: Army, which went 4-0 in the Round Robin, will take on Navy, who were 2-1-1.

JOIN US TOMORROW…

I will be back at PPL for one more day of fun in the sun, where a winner will be crowned.  If you can’t make it out to PPL (and shame on you if you can’t), you can follow along with me on Twitter at @BrianB_PSL.  Til then, keep an eye out for a wrap up and some reflections once we’re all done.

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