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PHILADELPHIA – Early on, it seemed that Cal would succumb to Kutztown's plan - that the lithe, storied Golden Bears from the West Coast would endure too much of a pounding from the bigger, stronger Golden Bears from the East Coast.
Kutztown struck first in the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) Final and used a lineup littered with forwards to keep the reigning CRC champions at bay for most of the first half.
With his team trailing 7-5 just before halftime, Cal's Andrew Battaglia beat equally-fast Vetekina Malafu around the corner for a long, unconverted try that gave the Jack Clark-coached Golden Bears a lead they would not relinquish.
"We just wanted to get to halftime, really," Cal head coach Jack Clark said. "They really have a lot of size to them so they can dominate certain aspects of the game. Not much we can do about that, right? We had to concede some moments to them, but we thought that if we could get to halftime and be in touch. We handle the ball pretty well and we're pretty fit, so we thought we could close it out if we could get to halftime and that's the way it worked out."
Brad Harrington broke away early in the second half to tack on another try for Cal, but Kutztown made the score 19-14 with a Mike Lawrenson try. Wes Hartmann, Kutztown's eight-man in fifteens play, made a huge break that put Lawrensen away.
"We used our physicality and our big players to kind of attack them right in their faces," Lawrenson said. "We were trying to catch them off guard. They are used to a sevens style with spreading the ball and pulling it out. We wanted to take it right to them, like last time (a 10-5 Cal win in 2013 CRC pool play). This time we were hoping to just finish it and unfortunately we lost it at the end. I think we gave them a good fight and something they weren't prepared for."
With under two minutes left, Kutztown was penalized near Cal's try zone, allowing Cal to quick-tap from the five-meter line and spread the ball wide, finding Barrientes in the corner for a try.
"We got the ball out with a skip pass and Jake Anderson just did a great job of setting me up in the corner," Barrientes said. "That was improv. We saw them kind of shooting up in center, so we just skip passed over the top and it was a 2-on-1."
Malafu scored Kutztown's final try, which was converted by scrum-half Niku Kruger, Kutztown's all-time leading sevens scorer.
Kutztown was tested only by Dartmouth in pool play - which ended in a 14-point tie on a last minute try and conversion from Madison Hughes - and picked up wins against Michigan and Life in the cup rounds.
"I joined this program four years ago, and we were recognized, but not nearly as much as we are now," Lawrenson said. "I'm glad that when i'm leaving the club, it's rising up and it's rising up. Soon, we'll be one of the big name (rugby schools) as well. We've been called an underdog a bunch of times, but nothing bites harder than an underdog."
After graduating forwards Danny Barrett and Ahmed Chehade from last year's CRC team, Cal will part with fifth-year seniors Seamus Kelly - a participant in all five CRC's - and Harrington.
"These sevens tournaments are a bit of a lottery," Clark said. "It's hard to really plan for victory. You just have to play as well as you can. You need to be a little bit lucky, I have to be honest. I think were were a little bit over the three days. I'm really pleased to win. We knew we could be one of the better teams, but cashing that in to victory is another proposition."
|9:20||1-Jun||NSCRO SF||NM Highlands||31||Richmond||0|
|9:40||1-Jun||NSCRO SF||New England||36||Valdosta State||7|
|31||10:00||1-Jun||Cup QF||Cal||33||Penn State||5|
|35||11:20 a.m.||1-Jun||Shield SF||Temple||21||Penn||12|
|36||11:40 a.m.||1-Jun||Shield SF||Texas||15||South Carolina||10|
|37||12:00 p.m.||1-Jun||Bowl SF||Notre Dame||14||Arizona||10|
|38||12:20||1-Jun||Bowl SF||St. Joe's||17||Drexel||10|
|12:40||1-Jun||Women's Final||Penn State||29||James Madison||12|
|13:00||1-Jun||HSG Final||N.J. Blaze||26||Doylestown||15|
|13:20||1-Jun||HSB Final||Salt Lake Lions||26||Malvern Prep||0|
|39||13:40||1-Jun||Plate SF||Northeastern||20||Virginia Tech||10|
|40||14:10||1-Jun||Plate SF||Maryland||22||Ohio State||5|
|43||6:04 p.m.||1-Jun||Shield Final||Temple||17||Texas||12|
|44||6:26 p.m.||1-Jun||Bowl Final||St. Joseph's||17||Notre Dame||15|
|6:48 p.m.||1-Jun||NSCRO Final||New England College||22||NM Highlands||14|
|45||7:10 p.m.||1-Jun||Plate Final||Maryland||29||Northeastern||0|
|46||7:32 p.m.||1-Jun||Cup Final||Cal||24||Kutztown||21|