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Central Washington claimed the inaugural Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Fall Classic title Sunday at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif. The Wildcats went 4-0 over two days to win the eight-team tournament. With a unique double elimination bracket in play, CWU had to dispatch Arizona twice along the way, the first time 15-0 and then again in the final, 15-14.

Setting the pace physically for Central on the day was Alex Mackenzie, a prop in 15s. "He just did the all the grunt work for us in the breakdown, carried hard, and defensively he was outstanding," CWU coach Todd Thornley said.  

Freshman Jack Wendling was potent in attack, too said Thornley, and outstanding as usual was Cole Zarcone, who routinely created problems for the defense. 

Seeking redemption from that loss earlier in the day, Arizona took a lead in the third minute of the final with a converted try. Jack Wendling notched a try for Central to cut the margin to two. His second score gave CWU the lead with 50 seconds left in the half, and the makeable conversion was missed by Ian Wright.

The restart coincided with the hooter. Arizona secured possession and worked deep into the attacking 22 before a penalty gave the ball back to Central. But a not-releasing penalty by Cole Zarcone gave Arizona’s Jonah Eldridge a tap-and-go to the five-meter line. Ryan Hudson would dive over under the posts, and the subsequent conversion would put Arizona up 14-10 at the half.

Central Washington came out of the gates hot in the second half, as Zarcone cut through the Arizona defense for 30 meters, but he was penalized, giving Arizona the ball 10 meters from its own try line. A second penalty led Arizona into the attacking 22, where a Central knock rewarded Arizona with a scrum.

That platform and a Central penalty would go to waste, though, as the Central defense held strong before an Arizona dropped pass went to Max Risenham’s hands, and he streaked down the left touch line. He was chased down by Jake Hedge right at the corner of the Arizona with around 4:20 left. Central stole the lineout, leading to a CWU scrum, and worked to the right for what looked like a try, but a penalty on the try line for diving over prevented the score.

Arizona kicked for touch, but the ball didn’t go out. Central sent it to the opposite field for a try in the corner by Alex Mackenzie. The conversion was no good, leaving CWU up 15-14 with the restart coming at just under two minutes remaining.

Arizona won the kickoff and a single player ran up the left touch line. Without support, he lost the ball in the tackle, giving Central a scrum feed just inside its half. CWU tries to run after winning the scrum, but the ball is knocked to touch by Arizona. With seven seconds left, Central lost the ball with a penalty, and Arizona took over at midfield. A pass to the wing was knocked on, giving the ball and the win to Central Washington.

San Diego State finished third in the contest, beating Cal Poly 27-10 for the right to play Arizona in the semifinal. Stanford and Santa Clara were eliminated on day one, logging successive defeats to start the tournament. UC Davis and USC were knocked out in the opening round of the second day. 

Round 1
Arizona 35-0 Stanford
Cal Poly 14-12 UC Davis
CWU 27-7 USC
SDSU 26-0 Santa Clara

Round 2
UC Davis 24-19 Stanford
USC 29-19 Santa Clara
Arizona 22-10 Cal Poly

Round 3
SDSU 29-0 UC Davis
Cal Poly 12-7 USC
CWU 15-0 Arizona

Round 4
SDSU 27-10 Cal Poly

Round 5
Arizona 24-7 SDSU

CWU 15-14 Arizona