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Delaware won its way back into the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship by claiming the Philadelphia Championship Cup Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa. The Blue Hens downed Mt. St. Mary’s in the final, capping off an undefeated tournament run. Their prize is a berth into the 2017 CRC.
Delaware opened the scoring right on the first-minute-mark of the championship game, with Chris Mattina darting in on the corner after a Mt. St. Mary’s penalty. The conversion was no good, leaving the Blue Hens up 5-0. The second try was through Tom Abram midway through the half. The Blue Hens executed a lineout play deep in the attacking end, and 5 scampered around the edge of the Mountaineer defense.
They added another immediately off the kickoff, taking a commanding 17-0 lead into the last minute of the half. Mount did manage a score late, cutting the deficit to 12 going into the break.
The Mountaineers got deep into Delaware’s end at the onset of the second half, but the Blue Hens were able to hold strong and turn defense into offense, with Abram breaking for a long-range try. Mount responded instantly off the kickoff, but the conversion was missed, leaving the Mountaineers down by two converted scores with less than three minutes to play.
Delaware took to cheekily playing keep away against Mount on the next possession. The Blue Hens made flat footed passes, goading the Mountaineer defense into coming forward. It worked, as the Mount defense was staggered when it did move, creating a gap for Joe Roberts to spring through for an easy score – 31-10. Roberts scored another at full-time for good measure.
“I think we probably saved our best for last. It was smooth, we worked hard, we worked together. We attacked space,” said Delaware head coach Struan Murray. “It was very positive and ambitious, all the stuff we wanted them to do. They worked very, very hard and I am very pleased with them.”
Delaware was once a mainstay at the main event, showing well at the 2012 and 2013 CRCs. But the program was suspended from its own campus for misconduct from the fall of 2013 through the spring of 2015. Winning their way into the CRC in just their first 7s season back on campus was an important moment for the Blue Hens.
“It is validation. It’s a whole lot of hard work. It is a big deal for these guys,” said Murray. “Guys who stuck around through it, guys who came despite we were suspended for two years, they managed to work hard to get us back. It is the easiest team in the world to coach, because they are so motivated. They earned their way back. Getting back into the main draw is just icing on the cake.”