The University of Utah defeated rugby powerhouse California 31-26 in sudden death overtime to win the first-ever USA 7’s Rugby Collegiate Championship, which featured the top 16 teams in collegiate sevens rugby.
The Utes and Golden Bears met in the finals of the three-day, 38 match event held at Columbus Crew Stadium.
Utah was led throughout the tournament by the powerful running and play of Thretton Palamo and the scampering runs of Don Pati.
“This was an historic weekend for introducing USA sevens Rugby to a national audience,” said Dan Lyle, tournament director, USA 7’s. “We want to congratulate the Utah Utes and all the hard-working teams that competed in the tournament. We are thrilled at the success of this event and thankful for world-class partners led by NBC for helping raise the profile of USA 7’s Rugby through the 2016 Olympics and beyond.”
“We are honored to broadcast college Rugby 7’s on network television for the first time in history,” said Jon Miller, executive vice president, NBC Sports. “Rugby 7’s is a fast-paced sport that is tailor-made for TV. We are excited to share Rugby 7’s with a new audience and help the sport grow in the US.”
Saving the best for last, the championship game ended up being the most exciting of the tournament. Cal was trailing 26-21 when senior Keegan Engelbrecht touched down for a try with no time remaining. Engelbrecht missed the conversion to send the game into sudden death overtime.
In overtime, Utah freshman Don Pati scored the winning try to claim victory over a Cal team that just last month won its 25th Rugby 15’s National Championship.
Utah’s run through the tournament saw them turn in victories over Penn State, Ohio State, Bowling Green, Navy and San Diego State.
Utah's win over Cal was even more daunting considering that entering the final match, Cal had outscored its opponents 157-7 in the tournament.
“We came into the tournament really believing in ourselves and confident that we could win the whole thing,” said Utah freshman Don Pati, who scored the winning try in sudden death overtime to give the Utes at 31-26 win. “When I broke the line for that try, it was an indescribable feeling.”
“The game was all about us sticking to our system and letting our athletes go out and play rugby,” said Utah head coach Jason Pye. “Obviously, we have some very good rugby players.”
The tournament is a big boost for collegiate sevens as the tournament proved to be very competitive and showed the power and athleticism of the players on the field.
Just as in International Sevens, it also proved that parity exists at all levels of sevens and predetermined outcomes are far from the norm. Collegiate squads that have traditionally struggled to reach the elite in 15's can make a quicker impact in sevens.
This fact should prove to continue with the rapid growth of sevens at the Collegiate level. This will be even more apparent in coming years as the tournament field expands into a series of qualifying rounds that will give more teams the opportunity to compete for a sevens championship.
The USA 7’s Rugby Collegiate Championship Invitational featured 16 Division I collegiate traditional powers, including the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Army, Bowling Green, University of California at Berkeley, Dartmouth, University of Florida, Harvard, Indiana University, Navy, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, San Diego State, University of Tennessee, and the University of Utah.
Bowling Green speedster Rocco Mauer was named tournament MVP as he led the tournament in tries scored and led the Falcons to the Challenger (consolation) bracket title.
Sponsors for the USA 7’s Rugby Collegiate Championship Invitational, included Subway, Geico, Bud Light and Toyota.
Nate Ebner (Ohio State)
Keegan Engelbrecht (Cal)
Benji Goff (Tennesse)
Colin Hawley (Cal)
Will Holder (Army)
Seamus Kelly (Cal)
Duncan Kelm (San Diego State)
Rocco Mauer (Bowling Green)
Dustin Muhn (Cal)
Thretton Palamo (Utah)
Don Pati (Utah)
Blaine Scully (Cal)
RUGBYMag.com CCI MVP: Rocco Mauer
Day 1 Results
- San Diego State 17 Florida 7
- Tennessee 24 Indiana 10
- Army 5 Arizona 5
- Navy 12 Arizona State 10
- California 42 Harvard 0
- Dartmouth 19 Notre Dame 5
- Bowling Green 22 Penn State 12
- Utah 19 Ohio State 10
Day 2 Results
- San Diego State 26 Indiana 0
- Tennessee 32 Florida 0
- Arizona State 15 Army 12
- Arizona Wildcats 19 Navy 14
- Cal 17 Notre Dame 7
- Dartmouth 38 Harvard 5
- Ohio State 12 Bowling Green 0
- Utah 24 Penn State 7
Day 3 Results
- Challenger 1/4 Final: Notre Dame 22 Florida 17 (OT)
- Challenger 1/4 Final: Indiana 12 Harvard 0
- Challenger 1/4 Final: Arizona State 24 Penn State 12
- Challenger 1/4 Final: Bowling Green 15 Army 12
- Challenger Semifinal: Arizona State 17 Notre Dame 7
- Challenger Semifinal: Bowling Green 27 Indiana 0
- Challenger Final: Bowling Green 32 Arizona State 12
- Championship 1/4 Final: Cal 36 Tennessee 0
- Championship 1/4 Final: San Diego State 17 Dartmouth 7
- Championship 1/4 Final: Arizona 21 Ohio State 10
- Championship 1/4 Final: Utah 24 Navy 0
- Championship Semifinal: Cal 33 Arizona 0
- Championship Semifinal: Utah 17 San Diego State 10
- Championship Final: Utah 31 Cal 26 (OT)
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