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Cal captured its second consecutive CRC title with a 24-21 win over Kutztown on Sunday at PPL Park. Photo credit: Jack Megaw.

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."

9:201-JunNSCRO SFNM Highlands31Richmond0
9:401-JunNSCRO SFNew England36Valdosta State7
3110:001-JunCup QFCal33Penn State5
3210:201-JunCup QFLife31Navy26
3310:401-JunCup QFUCLA21Dartmouth12
3411:001-JunCup QFKutztown14Michigan 0
3511:20 a.m.1-JunShield SFTemple21Penn 12
3611:40 a.m.1-JunShield SFTexas15South Carolina10
3712:00 p.m.1-JunBowl SFNotre Dame14Arizona10
3812:201-JunBowl SFSt. Joe's17Drexel10
12:401-JunWomen's FinalPenn State29James Madison12
13:001-JunHSG FinalN.J. Blaze26Doylestown15
13:201-JunHSB FinalSalt Lake Lions26Malvern Prep0
3913:401-JunPlate SFNortheastern 20Virginia Tech10
4014:101-JunPlate SFMaryland22Ohio State5
4114:101-JunCup SFCal20UCLA17
4214:351-JunCup SFKutztown19Life17
436:04 p.m.1-JunShield FinalTemple17Texas12
446:26 p.m.1-JunBowl FinalSt. Joseph's 17Notre Dame 15
6:48 p.m.1-JunNSCRO FinalNew England College22NM Highlands 14
457:10 p.m.1-JunPlate FinalMaryland 29Northeastern0
467:32 p.m.1-JunCup FinalCal24Kutztown21


Any idea what UWS team expected in terms of attendance at the CRC 2014? There seemed to be an awful lot of empty seats and a terrible lack of atmosphere even in the later stages. So, although it was great to have some broadcast coverage over the weekend - it seemed that the rugby teams had a poor following at the respective colleges and that the public in Philly had little interest also. Is this the right venue for this tournament? Is Philly the right location? What is the future of this invitational tournament? Let me know if it worth posting questions here or if there is a better way to engage.