PHILADELPHIA, PA – Well, this weekend Cal made history again… twice. What else is new?
In the first day of action in Pool A, reigning champions Cal took care of business by easily putting away Maryland and Tennessee, but ran into some competition from Arkansas State. Down 7-17 at the half, Arkansas scored thanks to nifty running by Zinzan Elan-Puttick to make it a one-try match. However, Berkeley sealed the deal when Patrick Barrientes scored from 80 meters out to make it 24-14.
Hometown favorites, Kutztown, had a closer set of matches in its pool play. Notre Dame and Boston College put up a tough fight, but it was the Midwest powerhouse Indiana that almost upset Kutztown. Despite being down 5-17 halfway through the second half and being down one man in the sin bin, Indiana’s Casey Smith scored a try and conversion to narrow the lead to five. With no time left, the Hoosiers made a terrific push towards the try zone, but were stopped at the 22. With that, Kutztown clinched Pool B.
Pool C was filled with very strong teams but it was Arizona that came out on top. The defense of the Wildcats was stellar, blanking both the Cadets and Midshipmen, winning by 20 and 17 respectively. Arizona faced fierce competition against St. Joseph’s, but came out on top, 14-5. In the rivalry match-up between Army and Navy, both teams had strong performances. Army led Navy 7-5 at halftime before Luke Heun and Torran Raby burst forward for a try each, respectively. Navy’s late try wasn’t enough and Army was victorious, 21-10.
Pool D was the most competitive of the day, thanks to a surprisingly competitive Virginia Tech team. Along with Life and Penn State, all had two wins on the day so Life were determined the pool winners by points. The Upset of the Day was Virginia Tech’s 7-5 defeat of Life University. In a match that saw plenty of good defense, only the conversion kick separated the Hokies from the Running Eagles.
In Pool E, UCLA qualified for the cup playoffs the next day, but not without a scare from South Carolina. The Bruins beat both Michigan and Wisconsin 38-0 with good performances by Niall Barry, who scored a hat trick against the Wolverines. Despite South Carolina’s early dominance, UCLA had other plans. Down 0-7 at halftime, UCLA answered back with three tries to go up 19-7.
Two-time CRC champions Dartmouth just did enough to get by and win Pool F. After Utah and the Big Green had beaten Temple and Clemson earlier in the day, it came down to the last pool match to determine who would advance on. Utah had a strong start and got out to a 10-0 lead by halftime. However, Dartmouth was determined in the second half and came out early with a try – but Utah responded. Ben Mills played great for the Utes on the day, but it was Big Green’s scrumhalf Ryan Maguire who took the spotlight with a last minute try and conversion to give Dartmouth their first lead of the day, 19-15, and a ticket to the Cup Playoffs.
In the second day of competition, UCLA beat Penn State to advance to the semifinals thanks to an early 19 point cushion, as the Nitanny Lions’ two late tries fell short. In a rematch of pool play, the Golden Bears were surprised as the Red Wolves jumped out to at 14-0 lead at the half. However, the boys from the West Coast responded with four unanswered tries to go up 24-14… In a thriller, Arizona beat Life in overtime. Trailing 5-12 late in the second half, Arizona was able to score with no time left, thanks to a hard-running try by Shane Demsey. Then in overtime, the U20 All-American, Tyler Sousley set up Jonah Eldridge for the winning try… With a full fan section there for support, Kutztown came back from behind to beat Dartmouth. Dartmouth was unable to hold back Kutztown in the second half, despite a 12-0 lead. Murphy Lill, Trent Hensley, and Wes Hartmann scored the tries to give the Golden Bears the lead and Dartmouth was unable to score on a final attempt with no time remaining.
In the semifinals, UCLA was matched up against Kutztown in a tight one. Kutztown scored the lone try of the first half thanks to Robert Stortz, to go into halftime 7-0. UCLA freshman and U20 All-American, Devin Lim, faked out the whole Kutztown defense with a dummy pass to get through the line and score to tie it up at 7 apiece. Kutztown regained the lead with a try by Lill off of a restart. However, it was UCLA who had the last response and Seb Sharpe ran the ball in for the try. The conversion was kicked good to give the Bruins a 14-12 win. The second semifinal of the day saw Cal easily take care of Pac-12 foe Arizona. Cal went into halftime with at 26-0 lead thanks to good performances by Anthony Salaber and William Fuller. Two more tries in the second half put away Arizona thanks to another try by Fuller which gave him a hat trick, but Arizona avoided the shutout with a late try by Matt Rogers. The final score was 38-5.
It was an all-California final when Cal took the field against UCLA. The first half was competitive with UCLA holding onto possession until Cal’s Jake Goena scored for the first points of the game. UCLA played fantastic defense early with the Bruins preventing a Cal try by tackling the ball carrier in the try zone and holding him up while on his back. UCLA looked had scored on a dive into the try zone but the referee called it a double movement. Cal only held a 7-0 lead at the end of the first half, but second half was a completely different story. Cal came out dominating the UCLA defense due to great ball moment and unselfish team play. Patrick Barrientes and Jesse Milne scored for the Golden Bears to cushion the lead. UCLA had small glimmer of hope after a Seb Sharpe try, but Cal responded with two tries by Anthony Salaber tries to end the game 31-7.
With that victory, Cal coach Jack Clark became the first coach to win both the Varsity Cup (15s national championship) and Collegiate Rugby Championship in the same year, while also adding on his fourth consecutive CRC championship (the most of any school). Despite two closer games with Arkansas State, Cal dominated the competition on the weekend and proved to the rest of the country why they are the national champions of collegiate rugby.
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