Dartmouth repeats as rugby national champs
CHESTER, PA (AP) - Dartmouth repeated as national champions beating Arizona 24-5 on Sunday in the third annual USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship.
Dartmouth's Will Mueller led the Big Green with two tries and Kevin Clark and Will Lehmann had one each, while Arizona's Brett Thompson scored the Wildcats' lone try on the final play of the first half.
The consecutive national titles ends a great run for a strong Dartmouth senior nucleus.
"You have to give credit to our senior class, they all played in this last year, they work their guts off and these guys all have almost perfect grades which tells you the type of guys they are,'' said Dartmouth coach Alex Magleby, who's also the head coach of the US national sevens team. "This is a group that gets things done. Arizona is a tough team, it was a team full of superstars. Going into the weekend, we didn't know exactly where we were going to stand. How well we were going to be able to keep possession was key and what our speed would be like matching up to others.''
Clark started the scoring taking the first try in from about 20 yards out with 6:06 left in the first half, then Mueller tallied the first of his two tries on a short run with slightly under three minutes left in the first half. He added another try with less than 40 seconds left in the half for a commanding lead.
Lehmann's try with 5:59 left to play sealed the victory for the Big Green.
Dartmouth was dominant throughout its six games. The Big Green outscored their opponents by a combined 170-41. Dartmouth entered the championship match of the 16-team, two-day round-robin tournament by giving up one try or less in five of its six victories. California was the only team to lead against Dartmouth, 5-0 and 19-7, before the Big Green rebounded for 14 unanswered points in a 21-19 semifinal victory.
"I think with us, it comes down to fundamentals,'' Mueller said. "This is an unbelievable tradition with the seniors in this team and alumni. It was equaling challenging this year to win the national championship. We have a great core group of seniors that were able to learn from the experience we had in this tournament last year. We knew there was a target on us, and it comes down to doing the fundamentals correctly. That was the difference.''
Arizona lost its top player, Peter Tiberio, in the second minute with a broken left forearm. The Wildcats were hit again with another major injury about a minute later when starter Trent Fischer went down with an injured left ankle.
"That's a very well coached team that's played together for a while, they train together, they're well drilled, Dartmouth is a great team,'' Arizona coach Dave Sitton said. "The key to their success is their team concept. Our semifinal game against Life was hard fought, and we thought we were prepared to play, but when you take a look at the injuries we had, there wasn't quite as much gas in the tank in the end as we would have liked. When Tiberio and Fischer went out of the game, it might have been a little too much to ask.''
In the consolation match, California won the bronze by beating Life University (Marietta, Ga.) 26-7 after surging to a big 21-0 lead in the first half.
Seamus Kelly, Connor Ring, Josh Tucker and Ahmed Chehade all scored tries for the Golden Bears, while Cornelius Dirksen scored on a long try for Life with 2:02 left to play.
NOTES: Dartmouth coach Alex Magleby was named the USA men's sevens head coach back in March. Along with guiding the Big Green to consecutive national championships, Magleby has built an incredible resume, which includes being the former Team USA sevens' captain, and he's also Dartmouth's 15s head coach . In 2016, rugby sevens will be an official Olympic sport . Tiberio's loss in the championship game was not only a crucial loss to the Wildcats, but he plays a critical role for the U.S. National team . Before the championship game, Arizona had defeated its five previous opponents by a combined 149-38. The Wildcats had only given up two tries in two of their first five games.