Cal, Kutztown dominate first day of Rugby Sevens Championships in Chester


CHESTER, Pa. -- One point.

That is how close St. Joe's was to advancing to the Cup quarterfinals of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championships, being held at Chester's Talen Energy Stadium, the home of the Philadelphia Union. Penn State beat out the Hawks for the eighth and final seed in the 7-on-7 tournament, winning the tie-breaking point differential category, 22-21. Penn State, down 17-0 to Life University, scored a garbage time try to make it 17-7. Little did the Nittany Lions know at the time that it would be the difference maker.

St. Joe's earned the top seed in the Plate bracket — a tier lower than the Cup, but higher than the Bowl quarterfinals — and will face South Carolina.

Two other Big 5 teams competed, with Temple playing in the Plate bracket and Drexel facing Maryland in the Bowl bracket, the lowest of the three brackets.

The day began with a bang — Drexel facing off against Life University. Well, it was explosive for one team. Life trampled Drexel, 46-0, registering a tournament high in points scored. Drexel finished 0-3 with losses to Life, Virginia Tech and Penn State. Drexel will face Maryland in the Bowl quarterfinals.

Temple (more on the Owls below) didn’t fare much better for the first two and a half games but came alive to steal a win vs. Utah. Temple will play Wisconsin

St. Joe’s represented the hometown crowd well, however. After struggling in tournaments past, the Hawks crushed Navy in their opener, scored 25 unanswered points to top Army, but fell to rugby powerhouse Arizona to finish pool play with a 2-1 record. 

Game of the day
Temple looked dead in the water in the first half of its final game vs. Clemson. 

After dropping their first two contests to Dartmouth and Utah, the Owls had something to prove, though. In the second half, the Owls woke up, scoring 19 unanswered points, including the game-winning try by Michael Wellstein with 25 seconds remaining, rallying to salvage a win in the tournament. 

With just three points in pool play, the Owls will play in the Bowl competition (consolation bracket), but it was a nice moment for the droves of fans that came out to support the team.

The Golden Bears
The last two years, the University of California has narrowly topped Kutztown in the finals, and this year could see the same matchup in the battle of the Golden Bears. Cal has to be the favorite after leading all schools in points scored during pool play while not giving up a single point in its first two games. 

But Kutztown has also impressed and is out for revenge. Kutztown has simply looked too fast for its competition, scoring two long tries vs. Boston College. With Cal easing past Arkansas State, it seems that a rematch between the Bears is destined.

Biggest disappointment
Pretty safe to say that Michigan was the most underwhelming team on Saturday. Having finished fifth in each of the last two tournaments, Michigan was expected to compete with UCLA for the Pool E title. Well, the two played each other, but it wasn’t much of a competition. 

UCLA was relentless, downing Michigan, 38-0. The Wolverines followed that up with a 26-0 loss to Wisconsin. It seemed as though the Wolverines’ heads were never really in the game. 

Day one surprise
That would be UCLA. After a disappointing ninth place finish last year, and in a tough group with Michigan and a hot Wisconsin team, UCLA rolled over its division to claim the Pool E title and the top seed going into the Cup quarterfinals. The Bruins were expected to compete for the title, but the way they've cruised so far is unexpected.

Fan favorite 
Despite the hometown crowd, Life University — located in Georgia — might just have the advantage here. Walking around the complex, it is hard to miss the Running Eagles’ flock of fans, decked out in neon green bucket hats, wigs and sunglasses. 

Life earned the Pool D title, but the real victory was the team’s jersey game. They sport neon green shorts and patterned baby blue jerseys. At least they have that going for them. Oh, and they destroyed Drexel, 46-0 to open the tournament.  And as if that wasn’t enough reason to root for the Eagles, their best player is named Harley Davidson. 

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