After another grueling day of rugby at PPL Park in Philadelphia, Dartmouth Rugby has once again been crowned National Sevens Champions, their second title in the USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship in as many years. The Big Green powered through the competition, showing their class with consistent possession, high-pressure defense, and elite speed going forward.
The Big Green kicked off day 2 of the CRC with a quarterfinal matchup against a Wisconsin Badgers team that finished the first round as runners-up in Pool B. Dartmouth took control of the game early with a quick try on a methodical possession culminating with a try from Will Mueller ‘12. Dartmouth continued to apply pressure throughout the first half with Kevin Clark ‘14 putting in two tries to make the score 21-0 going into the locker room. There was to be more of the same in the second half with Dartmouth strongly on the front foot after two long tries from co-captain Derek Fish ’12 and Madison Hughes ’15 to make the score 35-0. Wisconsin put away a try in the corner as the clock run out, ending the game with a score of 35-5. Fish was 5-5 on conversions in the matchup.
In the semifinals, Dartmouth faced off against the perennial rugby powerhouse University of California Golden Bears. Cal, who defeated the Big Green in the inaugural CRC two years ago and have won 19 of the past 21 fifteens national titles, got off to a quick start, scoring the first try of the game to go up 5-0. Dartmouth responded quickly with a brilliant run and try by Hughes, but Cal fought back to score again as time expired, making the score 12-7 at the half. Cal came out strong at the beginning of the second half, forcing a Big Green turnover and putting another try on the board, leaving Dartmouth with a twelve-point deficit trailing 19-7. But Dartmouth refused to give up, and Hughes broke down the sideline on a long run, dishing off to Fish for a try between the posts. The conversion was good, and Dartmouth closed the gap to five. In the final minutes of the second half, the Big Green struggled to put the ball in the try zone, but were able to work their way deep into Cal territory. After the ball was held up near the Cal try zone, co-captain Nate Brakeley ‘12 stole possession in the scrum, giving Kevin Clark the opportunity to power his way through two Cal defenders from 5 meters out, placing the ball between the posts to tie up the game with 43 seconds remaining. Fish put through the conversion, giving Dartmouth a two-point lead and the victory, 21-19.
In the title game, the Big Green faced off against the University of Arizona Wildcats, who had defeated national power Life University in semifinals and would prove to be a difficult test. Dartmouth once again got off to a quick start, controlling possession until Clark was able to break down the sideline, fending off to get around the edge and sidestepping an Arizona player to walk in for the try. Dartmouth’s dominance over possession continued, and Mueller was able to add two more tries to the Dartmouth total, giving the Big Green a 19-5 lead going into half, following an Arizona score on a long run with no time remaining. Dartmouth continued to maintain possession in the second half methodically working their way down the field gaining tough yards, eventually culminating in a hardnosed try from co-captain Will Lehmann ’12 to give the Big Green a 24-5 lead. Dartmouth saw less of the ball in the remainder of the game, struggling to turn the ball over and committing penalties around the ruck, but Arizona was unable to break through the Dartmouth wall, even when down a man for 2 of the final 3 minutes. Eventually the Big Green turned Arizona over in the breakdown and were able to run down the clock, with Fish dishing to Clark Judge ’12 to kick out of play and seal the victory.
The back-to-back national champions will return home to Hanover this evening. With the sevens season complete, Dartmouth Rugby will enjoy a well-deserved break before returning to campus in late August to begin preparing for the Ivy 15s season next fall.
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