Dartmouth defeats Arizona to win collegiate Rugby Sevens title

Dartmouth’s Will Lehmann holds Pete Dawkins Trophy while celebrating with teammates after winning the Collegiate Rugby Sevens Championship at PPL Park . curt hudson / for the daily news
Dartmouth’s Will Lehmann holds Pete Dawkins Trophy while celebrating with teammates after winning the Collegiate Rugby Sevens Championship at PPL Park . curt hudson / for the daily news
Posted: June 05, 2012

AFTER 2 DAYS, and 38 matches, the Collegiate Rugby Championship came down to two national powerhouses at PPL Park on Sunday: defending champion Dartmouth and talent-laden Arizona.

Arizona suffered a crushing blow early, losing senior Peter Tiberio to a broken arm in the opening minutes. From that point, Dartmouth was methodical in executing a possession-centric game plan and cruised to a 24-5 victory.

Big Green coach Alex Magleby, who doubles as the U.S. national sevens coach, said that with Arizona’s firepower keeping the ball away from the Wildcats was essential.

"Arizona is a great team," Magleby said. "They have a bunch of superstars so for us it would be about keeping possession. And you saw the few times we gave up the ball, they made some line breaks and looked real good on attack."

Sophomore Kevin Clark opened the scoring for Dartmouth in the first half with his sixth score of the tournament and senior Will Mueller added two more quick tries to extend the lead to 19-0. Arizona cut it to 19-5 before the half, but Dartmouth dominated in the second half and the early lead proved insurmountable.

"It was a complete team effort there," Mueller said. "Six other guys had to do their job before I got the ball and all I had to do was run it in."

Dartmouth is loaded with seniors and Mueller said it was special for them to end their careers with their second straight sevens national title.

"It is anything you could have hoped for a college career," he said. "There is a group of six other core seniors on this team and it’s unbelievable that we get to do it with our best friends on the field."

It was only a year ago that Dartmouth took home the trophy in the event’s Philadelphia debut. Then-junior Derek Fish, a key playmaker for the Big Green, was unable to participate because of an injured knee. Now a healthy senior co-captain, the win was especially sweet.

"It’s great to go out on top," Fish said. "Last year, seeing all my best friends win it was a little bittersweet. I loved it, but to be out there with them was even more special."

Fish led the tournament in scoring, punching in four tries and converting on 20 post-try kicks for a total of 60 points. In no game was his presence felt more than Dartmouth’s 21-19 comeback win against rugby power California in Sunday’s semifinals.

Fish’s three conversions were the difference in a game that players and coaches alike credited with propelling Dartmouth into the final on a confident note.

"Cal is the venerable program of college rugby and they have world-class coaching and some great players," Magleby said. "To get that win in a close match was huge."

"I felt so bad for [Fish] last year when he didn’t get to play," said promising freshman Madison Hughes, who registered 30 points of his own.

"His kicks are critical and he has been automatic all weekend. I was hanging around him for 8 months before I got to see him play, but he certainly lived up to my expectations."

California topped LIFE University in the third-place game, 26-7, and Florida won the consolation bracket, 20-14, over Maryland.

Temple finishes strong

The Temple rugby team dropped its consolation quarterfinal against Florida in an overtime thriller, 29-24. Despite the loss, Sunday afternoon’s performance by the Owls was undoubtedly their best of the tournament.

Devin Sugg had two tries for Temple, both coming in the first half, which gave him three scores for the tournament. The loss dropped the Owls to 0-3-1 in the tourney. n

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