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The Claremont Colleges captured the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO powered by Penn Mutual) Champions Cup with an emphatic 65-0 victory over Tufts. After falling in the national title game last year, a seasoned Lions squad came in determined to get over the hump.
“We knew we wanted to get back there,” Claremont Colleges Director of Rugby Jeremy Ognall said of returning to the final four. “It was an amazing experience. NSCRO, the whole Penn Mutual set up is top notch in Glendale. We broke it down into the building blocks of what we needed to do and figured out what we learned last year that we could improve upon. We knew what standard we had to play at and we knew from the beginning of the season, what it looked like for us to get there.”
The Lions came into the game after beating Xavier University 22-8 in a snow filled semifinal on Saturday. The weather proved to be much better on Sunday, allowing Claremont to play a much more expansive game.
“The weather just prevented rugby from being played on Saturday. We were excited that when we woke up on Sunday, it was clear sunny skies and it would allow us to play the way we like to play the game.”
The California side dominated from minute one. The Lion pack contained six experienced seniors that set the tone early on, creating time and space for the a potent back line.
“Everything we got yesterday was based on the solid platform form our forwards. Our forwards know what to do. They followed the structure put in by Scott Bracken, our forwards coach, and really stuck to it,” said Ognall.
Outside center Shane Pico scored the first two tries of the game and the floodgates opened. The Lions led 29-0 at halftime. The backs were able to move the ball from side to side and broke a number of tackles to open up a big lead.
“I was really excited that we managed to get a few balls out wide a few times. That has been a bit of a struggle at times this season. I was very pleased with our flyhalf Brendan McDonald. I thought he ran the game very well and we got some good hard running lines,” Ognall added. “We scored some nice tries through the hands.”
Claremont continued the onslaught in the second half. The west coast school added another 36 points to win comfortably 65-0. It was an incredibly rewarding victory after a year of hard work and the disappointment of last year.
“For the program this is a validation that we are doing the right things,” Ognall said of the victory. “This is going to be something that our players are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”