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The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship semifinals are set, and three of last year's final four teams are back. Arizona and Cal will meet in an All-Pac-12 semifinal, and Kutztown will duel UCLA in the other semifinal.
UCLA 19-12 Penn State
The teams got off to a slow start with a number of knock-ons and penalties at the breakdown ending attacking opportunities. Seb Sharpe broke the game open for UCLA, however, after five minutes with two quick tries. The speedy winger busted through the line and beat the fullback for a 60-meter try and intercepted a pass deep inside the Penn State 22 for the second. Cian Barry added both conversions and the Bruins took a 14-0 lead into the break.
Niall Barry extended the lead with a try early in the second half. His brother nailed the conversion to extend the lead to 19-0. Penn State finally got on the board via Joe Kelly and scored another under the posts with less than a minute left. It was not to be for Penn State, though as UCLA won the kickoff and kicked it out of play.
Cal 24-14 Arkansas State
As clinical as Cal was in the first half against ASU yesterday, today was quite the opposite. The Bears took several penalties off of restarts, allowing the Red Wolves to get out of their own end.
Zinzan Elan-Puttick broke through the Cal line to create the first score of the game. After being tackled he offloaded and a few phases later Zac Young took it in for the first score of the game and a 7-0 lead.
Cal knocked the restart on and ASU went right back on the attack. Out left, Connor Cook beat his man to the outside for the second score. Elan-Puttick nailed the tough conversion for a 14-0 lead.
The Bears got right back into the game, however, scoring immediately after the kickoff. After breaking a tackle, Jake Goena offloaded inside to Anthony Salabar, who took it the distance for the score.
Cal slowly took over the first half and Jesse Milne took the ball in with no time left to even the score at 14-14. Despite the slow start, it went into the break tied.
The second half was a defensive struggle, plagued with errors. Both teams looked a bit tired. Russell Webb looked to give Cal the lead with a kick ahead. With nobody in front of him, Webb kicked a head again, but over ran the ball and knocked it forward. Webb avenged himself a minute later scoring in the right corner off the scrum.
Arkansas State looked to get back in the game and had a series off offloads to get back in Cal territory. The Red Wolves kept finding Cal players on errant passes, however, and in the final minute, running out of options, kicked ahead right into the hands of Webb. Webb sprinted 80 meters but was run down by Puttick at the goal line. Freshman Fawzi Kawash was right there, though, and sealed the match with his first try of the tournament and a 24-14 win.
Arizona 19-12 Life
Life started dubiously, conceding three penalties in the opening four minutes, giving all the possession to Arizona. The Running Eagle defense was stout, but eventually Arizona broke through and was able to put Tyler Sousley over in the corner. The conversion attempt was no good – Arizona 5-0.
It didn’t take long for Life to answer back, scoring on its first real possession from the kickoff. Cody Melphy took on a few tacklers to start the movement, and Duncan van Schalkwyk bursted up the sideline before putting Conner Mooneyham over for the try. Melphy slotted the extra points, putting Life up 7-5, which is how the half would end.
The penalty count continued to pile up against Life, but the Running Eagles kept applying pressure. It manifested in a Wildcat knock-on on Arizona’s own five-meter line. Harley Davidson punched over a score shortly after the scrum, extending the Life lead to 12-5. Duncan van Schalkwyk’s conversion attempt missed, leaving Arizona with a chance.
Continued Life indiscipline resulted in Shane Dempsey scoring and converting at the death to force a 12-12 tie and overtime. Early in the five-minute period, the Running Eagles were nearly in on a Harley Davidson break, but a flurry of Life penalties saw Mooneyham shown a card and Jonah Eldridge score the sudden death winner.
Kutztown 19-12 Dartmouth
Kutztown lost a player early, as John Sage was binned for a dump tackle. Dartmouth capitalized on the man advantage, with Dawitt Workie making a break to set up a try for Jack Braun. No conversion – Kutztown led 5-0.
Sage erred upon his return, knocking on deep inside his own end, and Braun found a gap off the scrum for his second score. This time Curtis Oberg converted, making it 12-0 to the Big Green.
Dartmouth returned the favor, with Hayden Aldridge being show yellow for hitting a man in the air during the restart. KU went on the offensive, but a knock-on ended the half with the Golden Bears scoreless.
Kutztown finally got on the board 90 seconds into the second half. The Bears won an attacking scrum, and Murphy Lill broke through a tackle to score under the posts. Sage converted.
KU’s restart didn’t go 10 meters, but Dartmouth knocked on the free-kick play. The scrum platform proved fruitful for Kutztown again, as reserve Trent Hensley scored from 50 meters on his first touch of the game. He missed the dead on conversion, though, leaving the score knotted at 12-12 with less than three minutes to play.
The Bears captured their first lead of the game right before full time, as Wes Hartmann trucked through three tackle attempts to score an impressive long-distance try. Hensley made this kick – 19-12. After the restart, Kutztown ploughed through Dartmouth at the breakdown to win the ball and kick it to touch.