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Notre Dame taking a conversion. Jack Megaw photo

In 2010, the first year of the College Rugby Championship (CRC) held in the Columbus Crew MLS stadium, there were few people in the stands to watch the inaugural event. By 2014, the fifth tournament, Saturday's crowd at PPL Park, Chester, Pa., reached almost 10,000, a positive outcome for the hosts, United World Sports LLC.

In addition to this significant increase in attendance, another welcome change for rugby in the United States, has been the dynamic and visible improvement in sevens play, particularly, at the college level. A handful of the 16 teams in Columbus had ever contested sevens, the novice performances glaringly evident on the NBC broadcast.

The second year in 2011 produced a surprise result when well-drilled Dartmouth won the championship with a 12-man squad, playing at a skill level that resembled experienced national sides. Other invited colleges took notice of the Big Green's cohesiveness, and the fact that the coach, Eagle Alex Magleby, was a knowledgeable seven’s specialist. 

By the third year of the CRC, the play of the teams improved dramatically from the scheduling of more sevens events annually, and the increase in training and strategy. When Dartmouth won for the second year, it reinforced the notion that a special sevens program, guided by a coach proficient in the game, could achieve a high CRC standing.

Cal won the CRC in 2013 and repeated in 2014, both years demonstrating a clean passing, team-play mentality. But this year, all of the other invitees confirmed that they had started or continued programs dedicated to the faster, open game.

A few observations from this year's tournament:

Conversions: An improvement in two-point scoring, especially, on the long, steep angles. Many more kickers cleared the goal posts or came close, a noticeable difference from earlier years. Practice making perfect.

The restart: A downturn in the start of play, the kicks either not finding 10 meters, going out of bounds, or being kicked backwards. These poor beginnings handed the ball over at midfield and offered the opposition scoring possibilities. More practice needed.

Passing: The one area where all the teams showed marked progress. These spin laterals were crisp, on the mark, and some almost 20 meters for all sides. 

Final note: CRC 2014 generated many more competitive games from a greater number of entrants. Not only did the big four sevens colleges (Cal, Life, Kutztown, Dartmouth) play spirited games, but also witnessed UCLA, Maryland, Michigan, and Notre Dame on the rise. The CRC anticipates that 2015 will showcase the highest performance standards of college sevens.

Comments

As an attendee and Life fan, I was still disappointed that arguably the best team in College 7's is not in attendance, Arkansas State; and that four other significant teams are not included either, St. Mary's, BYU, Lindenwood and Davenport. It is hard to accept this as the College Championship with them missing. It is a wonderful invitational tournament but can not be a College Championship without Ark. State the winner of the USA College 7's for the last 2 years. Again division brings questions about the quality of the win. It was a good win for Cal and they are the CRC Invitational Winner but not national Collegiate Champions, that honor goes to Ark. State.
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it is an icnvitational. it's about making money. not there fualt rugby does not have a big fan based in America like NFL NBA MLB. they are trying to grow the game as well by showing people in the seats.
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Quality rugby will fill seats and viewership and make money. You don't have to dilute the competition to turn a profit.
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Ultimately, its about putting butts in seats or having a huge alumni base who could support the sponsors through increased TV viewership. Of course, that may not be what folks want to hear but it's the reality of a successful commercial venture running the event. I'm not complaining since its not my $ and if we were in their shoes we'd probably do the same thing.
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You voted '-1'.
Having been at the event both days the rugby I saw was outstanding and continues to improve kudo's to St Joe's, Drexel, and Temple - get no support from schools yet somehow managed to be competitive on the field kept minimal point differentials all while selling tickets to earn their way in. This is what rugby players do best thrive under adversity. Rugby players are well rounded individuals who are attracted to the universities by virtue of their excellence in academics, sport and leadership. If you want a technical National Championship watch Basketball. I will take my underdog rugby team (loaded up with a good dose of character and integrity) up against a powerhouse anyday. How can you not like Kutztown? bringing all those fans and attitude from seemingly nowhere well near Harrisburg Pa and take Cal to the absolute limit Jack Clark admitted after the game Cal was lucky and Kutztown had size. I bet Coach Tolkin has his eye on Mike Lawrenson already.
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I agree with everything said. I believe in the sport, I understand the financials and fan base, though I doubt Ark State would have less than some of the teams at the CRC. They are close enough to do what Life did and charter a bus for fans/students to pay a nominal amount and go to Philly for a weekend. Philly is a desirable destination for these teams/students from the mid-west. The Life students which was either the number one or number two fan base traveled 14 hours by bus. So the excuse only goes so far.
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Quality rugby always wins and is what is best for growing the sport here in the USA. NBC may prefer brand names like Notre Dame, Arizona and Ohio State but the reality is Notre Dame College, AIC and Arkansas State (not to mention St. Mary's, BYU, Utah, Davenport and others that could compete) would throttle them and there is no proof it would hurt TV ratings. After day 1 I watched every local team from Philadelphia lose...by a lot (winless and almost a -100 point differential). How is that good for the game and viewership? Bottom line, this is not a championship, it is an invitational with some quality teams and some pretty weak sides. Good, quality rugby- regardless of school brand, will always win and I'd love to see the CRC stop diluting the quality.
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