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Saint Louis University became the first team to win a bid to USA Rugby's DII 7s National Championship by claiming the Gateway 7s title Saturday in inclement weather. The Billikiens blanked Missouri S&T, Southern Illinois and UMKC amidst heavy snowfall in pool play. They then beat Maryville in the semifinals to set up a championship meeting with Principia.
The Thunderchickens, who won the inaugural DII 7s National Championship in 2013, cruised through their pool, shutting out Washington, Missouri S&T and Southern Illinois. Principia then beat UMKC in the semifinals.
With the ground turning difficult to cut on and the ball getting increasingly slippery, the final turned into a defensive struggle. SLU scored one unconverted try to take a 5-0 lead into halftime and added another in the final minute of the match to secure the 10-0 win.
"Principia looked unstoppable all day long. They have hard runners, good speed, and great ball control and accuracy," said SLU coach Justin Whitton. "We beat them with defense and ball control, not speed and brilliance. If these two teams played each other 10 times in 7s, I don’t know who would come out on top. Hard to say if the poor weather conditions affected Principia’s speedsters more than SLU or not."
The Billikens, who had a pretty full 15s schedule slated for the spring, will now look to add more 7s tournaments in preparation for Nationals in May. But first, the team is off to Mexico for a spring break tour, which includes two 15s matches in Riviera Maya.
"The one thing with rugby in America is the only constant is change. This is a very new experience for our squad, and the first time we have ever in our history practiced 7s as a unit. We are extremely pleased with the results, and take it as a high honor to be successful over the reigning 7s National Championship squad," said Whitton.
"We have great mutual respect between SLU and Principia and know any victory over their squad is always hard fought. Our 7s coaches Doug Aten and Todd Lunow worked very hard to prep the squad the past 6 weeks in what can only be considered awful training conditions. I’m sure the squad and coaches are looking forward to playing in 80 degree weather in Mexico after a full day of 10 degree weather this past weekend."