In an overtime thriller, the Life University Running Eagles bested Central Washington to win the inaugural USA Rugby Men’s College Sevens National Championship 22-17.
Cornelius Dirksen came screaming out of the gates, scoring inside of a minute to open Life's tally in the championship game. However, Central's Tanner Barnes and Tim Stanfill crossed the line before halftime, and the now-champions found themselves up against it at the half but didn’t let the scoreline affect their game.
“They were pretty calm at the half,” said Life Head Coach Tui Osborne. “They were patient in the second half, just like Paul [Emerick] and I told them to be. Anything can happen in a sevens match and their patience paid off.”
Two tries in the second half from Life and one from Central Washington drew the scores level at 17-17. It wasn't an easy path to overtime for the Running Eagles, and it looked for a time like Central Washington would squeak out a win, but a few crucial turnovers opened the door for Life. Glen Maricelli tied the score and a conversion would have won it for Life, but the attempt missed the mark.
Two halves weren’t enough to determine the champion, so five minutes of sudden death overtime were required. Life struck first in overtime and Jamey Penca scored the heroic game-winner.
Life Head Coach and former USA Eagle, Tui Osborne, hailed his team’s hard work not just this season, but over the last three years to develop into a national champion.
This is the first College National Championship for Life at the college level, marking a huge step forward for the program.
There were a number of other hardware-winners in the championship in the plate, bowl, and shield competitions. St. Mary’s won the plate by defeating Colorado 29-7, Arkansas State blanked Kutztown 27-0, and Air Force thrilled the crowd by winning in sudden death in the shield final, finishing off Virginia 22-17.
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