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In the seventh annual Penn Mutual College Rugby Championships at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa., the marquee teams of the tournament showcased their talents and athleticism. A few minor hiccups aside, competition heavyweights advanced to the quarterfinals on Sunday.
Pool A came down to a showdown between Cal and Arkansas State. Both teams handily won their other pool matches against Tennessee and Maryland yielding no points in the process.
In the group finale, Cal got off to a strong start against the Red Wolves. The Bears made hardly any mistakes in the first half, pinning Arkansas State deep in its own territory and forcing turnovers. Jesse Milne scored twice and Jake Goena added a third to give Cal a 17-0 lead.
Connor Cook gave ASU some life at the end of the first half with a converted try. Zinzan Elan-Puttick nabbed his fifth try of the tournament to cut the lead to 17-12. The Red Wolves looked to steal the game away in the last minute and were on the Cal doorstep, but a turnover allowed Patrick Barrientes to go the length of the field for a the death knell try and a 24-12 pool victory.
It was not all sour grapes for Arkansas State, however, as the Red Wolves took the seventh seed with a +57 point differential and are set for a rematch with Cal in the Cup Quarterfinals tomorrow.
With Pool B consisting of Boston College, Indiana, Kutztown, and Notre Dame, the Bears finished with the sweep of the group scoring a total of 58 points, conceding just 34.
Jordan Ghyzel led a balanced attack for Kutztown with three tries. Dependable Robert Stortz and Vetekina Malafu each had two tries on the first day, and star Alex Faison-Donahoe has hardly been a factor on offense with a single try, but he’s been solid on defense. The Bears are lining up to be in fourth position going into Sunday’s action.
The three remaining teams in the pool split with each other, completing Saturday with identical 1-2 records. Indiana started the day with a 21-12 loss to Boston College and won its middle match over Notre Dame 22-7, while Notre Dame’s lone victory came 24-14 over Boston College.
The biggest surprise of the tournament came in Pool C. Many had this group pegged as the pool of death with Army, Navy and Arizona battling it out at the top and possibly winning it all, and St. Joe’s facing an uphill climb. As it turns out, however, St. Joe’s toppled both Army and Navy convincingly, while Arizona blanked both Military Academies. Army won the rivalry match, but it was only a consolation as neither team will be moving on the to the cup rounds.
Arizona and St. Joe’s squared off for pool supremacy. St. Joe’s was able to crack the Arizona defense, but two tries from Ben Joseph gave Arizona a 14-5 win and the third overall seed in Pool C.
St. Joe’s, unfortunately, came up just short of the cup rounds after losing the group. With a point differential of +21, the Hawks missed out on the eighth spot by one point to Penn State.
The most contentious group of Saturday was Pool D. Starting with a 46-0 demolishing of Drexel, Life’s second game was a disappointment losing to Virginia Tech, 7-5. With Penn State winning its first two games, all Life had to do was beat the Nittany Lions to advance to the quarterfinals.
Late in the stadium in front of a large home contingent, Life beat Penn State, 17-7. Running Eagle Cody Melphy, who scored a try in the win, was fourth in scoring with 26 points via four tries and three conversions.
UCLA had a banner day topping Pool E with a 3-0 record with wins over Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. With a dominating +88 point differential, the Bruins have earned the No. 1 seed for Sunday. UCLA averaged 31 points a game with Race Noelder and Cian Barry scoring three tries each. Barry finished the day third with 27 total points, adding on six conversions. Luke Hoffman and Seb Sharpe completed Saturday with two tries each.
Wisconsin challenged for a wildcard entry into the quarterfinals with wins over Michigan and South Carolina, but the Badgers’ point differential was not enough. The Crass brothers for Wisconsin did most of the scoring, with Tyler scoring three tries and Hunter two.
Pool F featured another bout of undefeated teams in the final game of group play. Utah grinded out wins over Clemson and Temple, while Dartmouth had a pair of more comfortable wins against those opponents.
The Utes got off to the better start, going up 10-0 thanks to tries from Chad Gough and Casey Raymond. Dartmouth got one back but Utah extended the lead to 15-7 early in the second half. Utah looked to take control, but a break from Curtis Oberg put Dartmouth within three. Ryan Maguire gave the Big Green the lead with a little over a minute to go and Dartmouth held on for a 19-15 Pool F win.
Evan Lappen contributed to writing this recap.