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Left: Danny Barrett - Right: Nate Ebner

In June of 2011, the College Rugby Championship would move to PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. It marked the second year of the CRC sevens event, first held in Columbus, Ohio, to a sparse crowd. That initial contest – aired on NBCSports – witnessed a ding-dong battle between Cal and Utah, tied at the whistle, and won in overtime by Utah 31-26. Utah’s football and rugby ace Thretton Palamo scored two tries in the final.

The expectation then was that the relocation to an eastern city would boost CRC attendance and awareness, drawing fans from a region with a long and storied American rugby tradition.

Four pools again produced sixteen teams, many that had played in the 2010 event in Columbus.

Pool A – Cal, LSU, Ohio State, Penn State

Pool B – Boston College, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Utah

Pool C – Army, Central Washington, Navy, North Carolina

Pool D – Arizona, Oklahoma, Temple, Texas

On paper, Utah was primed for a repeat, with three of the four semi-finalists from 2010 returning; Utah, Arizona, and California. In truth, the Columbus tournament showcased the four semi-finalists’ ability to play sevens, and the inexperience of mastering the faster game by the other twelve squads.

What happened in Philadelphia at the 2011 CRC would change forever, the training and sevens skill level of American colleges as long shot, underdog Dartmouth won the championship. The Big Green players were not giants or speedsters, instead, under the brilliant tutelage of coach Alex Magleby, they understood the pace and distinctive style of sevens play. The victory demonstrated that emphasis on a dedicated rugby program devoted to sevens, and under the aegis of an experienced mentor (Magleby played sevens for the Eagles), could make all colleges competitive.

Photograph: Playing in that 2011 tournament were Cal’s Danny Barrett (beardless then) and Ohio State’s Nate Ebner (then bearded). Five years later, these two stars would be in Rio playing Olympic rugby for the USA. They would both credit appearances at the CRC for their sevens experience.

Penn Mutual Insurance CRC 2017 - Scheduled June 3 and June 4 in Talen Energy Stadium Chester, Pennsylvania. For tickets and more information, go to https www.usasevenscrc.com/