California wins 4th consecutive Rugby 7s championship; St. Joe's falls short


No surprise here. 

The California Golden Bears are golden again, taking home their fourth-consecutive championship, beating UCLA, 31-7, in the final Sunday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium.

The game was much tighter than the score indicates, however. Cal held just a try lead heading into the half, but tacked on two late tries to put the game out of reach.

The Bruins tried to muster a comeback to begin the second half. Star senior Seb Sharpe tried to spark the Bruins with a 60-yard try, but that only seemed to wake up the Golden Bears.

Cal quickly added two insurance scores to seal the title. 

Cal proved why they were the three-time defending champs, steamrolling Arizona, 38-5, to get to the title game.

The Bruins at least decided to keep their semifinal game close. As frustratingly poor as UCLA played in the first half against Kutztown, they were equally unstoppable in the second, leading a furious comeback to reach the championship, topping the Golden Bears, 14-12. The loss ended a two-year streak of second-place finishes for Kutztown.

In the second-tier Plate final, Wisconsin held Indiana five yards shy of the game-winning try for a 10-7 win and Army shut out Maryland to win the Bowl bracket.

Hawks heartbreak
Just when it looked like St. Joe’s would break through to its best finish in school history (see story), it all came crashing down Sunday.

In the men’s Plate quarterfinals, top-seeded St. Joe’s fell to South Carolina, 19-12. The Hawks were driving downfield, looking for the winning score, when South Carolina stole the ball. The Gamecocks quickly grubbered (kicking the ball to gain ground quickly) twice all the way downfield. A 1-on-1 footrace was St. Joe’s only hope of staving off the Gamecocks, but USC's Nick Skalka was pulled down at the goal line and converted the ensuing penalty try as time expired to eliminate the Hawks.

The Hawks unofficially finished 13th, going 2-2 with a point differential of 28.

Comebacks in Chester
Maybe it was the early start, but tournament favorites Cal and Kutztown (see story) both got off to sluggish starts and looked as though their tournaments would come to an end sooner than expected.  

The second half was a different story, though. Three-time defending champion Cal rallied from 14 down against a powerhouse Arkansas State team, scoring 24 unanswered points to seal the victory. 

Kutztown had a tougher time getting past Pool F winner Dartmouth. With just four minutes remaining in the second half and down 12, the Bears rattled off 19 unanswered points to advance.

What a life
Sunday’s matches saw the Penn State stranglehold of the CRC come to an end, with Life University taking the women’s CRC title.

Penn State, vying for its fourth consecutive championship, was outworked by Lindenwood, last year’s runners up, falling 14-5 in the semifinals, a shocking loss for the Nittany Lions.

Life’s combination of speed and physicality proved to be too much for Lindenwood to handle. The Running Eagles used two long tries of over 80 yards to top Lindenwood. Just as it looked as though Life was about to put the game out of reach, Lindenwood’s Hannah Gauthreaux stole the ball and took it 80 yards to the house for the score.

It wasn’t enough, however, as Life’s Nicole Strasko added her second score of the game to ice it for Life.

Big 5 failure
Drexel was eliminated by Maryland in the Bowl quarterfinals, losing 24-0. Drexel unofficially finished in 23rd, was 0-4 in the tournament and boasted a point differential of minus-102, the second-worst in the 24-team tournament.  

Temple's fate wasn't much better in the Plate quarterfinals, getting manhandled by Wisconsin, 33-0. The Owls unofficially finished in 16th, with a 1-3 record and a minus-55 point differential. 

In other local news, the University of Delaware topped Mount Saint Mary’s, 36-10 in the local Philadelphia Division final. Now in its second year of existence, the division allows the winner to join the following year’s tournament. Drexel won in 2015. Other competing schools include University of Penn, Villanova, Rowan and West Chester.

Overtime thriller
The Life University men’s team saw their impressive run come to an end, dropping a thrilling overtime match to Arizona.

Life led for all of regulation time, but it was not enough to earn the victory. Arizona was finally able to punch in a try during stoppage time after flirting with the end zone for the final minute, to force the only overtime of the tournament.

The Wildcats broke free for a long run in overtime to again get the ball down within striking distance. With the man advantage, the Wildcats lunged into the end zone for the game-winning try, taking the game 17-12. 

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