Cal Capture 2013 Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s (CRC7)

LEastCoastBears

Cal Rugby capture their first CRC Sevens National Championship in program history (on the 4th try). Here is a more in depth recap of the action in the final day of Championship Round play, including a healthy dose of my photos from being on site to experience it all. GO BEARS!

Before we begin, here is again a quick recap on what Rugby 7s is about and why it is gaining importance.

Rugby 7s is the format of rugby that will be played at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) is an annual competition to determine a collegiate national champions. 2013 marks the 4th year of its existence. The Bears, while perfect in CRC pool play in their history, have never won the CRC. In the single elimination championship round, the Bears have been edged and knocked out in all three rounds (final in 2010, quarterfinal in 2011, semifinal in 2012) of Sunday's Championship Round play.

Bears, for the first time, finally have a year round preparation for Rugby 7s this year after years of dominating the scene in the standard Rugby 15 (or Rugby Union).

Here is a more detailed primer about Rugby Sevens, ignore the information about "tournament" at the end since this is clearly from a different thing (as much as we, particularly me, here at CGB has done the Cal as a nation comparison for Olympics Medal count sake, colleges are not considered nations).

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via www.rugbyfansrule.com

Rugby sevens is clearly a faster and shorter game than the traditional Rugby 15 where Cal has dominated. By National Championships counts, Bears have 26 for Rugby 15 and Sunday marks the very first one CRC one in Rugby 7s (in obviously less opportunities). Technically, the Bears have also won a "National Championship" at 24-team USAR-7s last december but the CRC has a bit more history on its side.

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Although both are "rugby", they are different games with different strategies akin to the difference between soccer and indoor soccer, 5-on-5 and 3-on-3 basketball, and (a sore subject to some) stroke and match-play in golf. With the significantly shorter time and plenty of more open spaces, any single mistake is greatly magnified in 7s to add to the chaos and the number of upsets.

Prior to Sunday, the Golden Bears qualified as the No. 1 seed for Sunday's championship round by taking the top spot in Pool C and earning the top seed with the largest points total in the 20-team field with a very impressive 110-12 scoring margin in 3 games.Prior to Sunday, the Golden Bears qualified as the No. 1 seed for Sunday's championship round by taking the top spot in Pool C and earning the top seed with the largest points total in the 20-team field with a very impressive 110-12 scoring margin in 3 games.

On Sunday, the Bears get to open their Championship Round quarterfinal with a familiar opponent in Arizona, even though I don't believe Cal faced Arizona in the inaugural PAC Sevens tournament last fall.

For the third straight year, the CRC is being held in Chester, PA (just south of Philadelphia, PA). I have never been to PPL Park before and its setup reminds me a little bit of AT&T Park with the Bay Bridge nearby (possibly it is just me missing the Bay Area).

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The weather overall was pretty nice, temperature-wise. Although the wind at times does play some tricks on the conversion kicks. A brief and extremely light rain did not really dampen the mood.

QUARTERFINAL ROUND:

Getting to the stadium just in time for the kickoff of the Cal-Arizona game, the scorings came fast and furious before I can find a seat. Bears jumped out with a quick try, but Zona quickly responded.

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Here, Cal's captain Seamus Kelly made a move on a bunch of Zona players.

The ball just went back and forth across the large field while the crowd and the CRC announcer ooh and aah on the various big hits. I think it is apt to say it is like football except there is no time or stoppage of play for the most part for the fans to catch their breath between hits between plays at times.

The Quarterfinal Scoring Timeline vs. Arizona:

02:00 Danny Barrett 5, Russell Webb 2

04:00 Arizona (Ryan Matyas) 5, (Jack Arnold) 2

05:00 Seamus Kelly 5, Russell Webb 2

06:00 Arizona (Shane Carter) 5

Halftime Score: California 14, Arizona 12

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I thought I can relax and orient myself a bit at the half, but Rugby 7s' half time is merely 2 minute long (more like a timeout).

09:00 Danny Barrett 5, Russell Webb 2

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This Jake Anderson try sealed the contest.

12:00 Jake Anderson 5

Final Score: California 26, Arizona 12

The Team vs. Arizona:

1. Chehade, 2. Harrington, 3. Barrett, 4. Webb, 5. Anderson, 6. Kelly (c), 7. Battaglia
Replacements: Barrientes, Coquillard, Boyer

A somewhat surprisingly large Arizona group was present at the CRC this year, due to the organization of their local alumni clubs. Apparently, they got former Wildcat and current Eagles QB Nick Foles to show up on Saturday.

Bears advanced to the semifinal with a 26-12 victory over Arizona, who caught the Bears' defense sleeping a few times. Cal waited on the winner of Dartmouth/UCLA in the semifinal.

SEMIFINAL ROUND:


Against the two-time defending champs of this tournament, UCLA was behind and looked to be out down 12 points with just minutes remaining. A bad pass by Dartmouth allowed UCLA to get an easy try and conversion to cut the lead to 5. With something akin to a glorified stoppage play, UCLA managed to get the ball back right after the final buzzer had sounded to denote stoppage time. Dartmouth could have ended the game and win by just kicking the ball out of bound but the one player chose to ignore them by trying to score a meaningless try (much to the dismays of their fans sitting right in front of me). UCLA tackled and took back the ball to slowly and methodically (even though the clock has stroke zero awhile back) down the field, including a football snap like pass to score the tying try and set up a medium/hard conversion for the win. After converting the tough kick from a weird angle, it would be an all-California affair in one of the semifinals as the Bears faces these guys:
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who were happily enjoying themselves singing Sweet Caroline hours after losing to Cal.

The Semifinal Scoring Timeline vs. UCLA:

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Just a reminder how Rugby is a pretty physical game. Two players fighting for the kickoff kick.

03:00 UCLA (Race Noeldner) 5, (Ben Francis) 2

Bears actually fell behind early in this one to give the Baby Bears some hope. UCLA's got a great bounce of a kick to score the first try of the match.

05:00 Danny Barrett 5, Russell Webb 2

06:00 Danny Barrett 5

Methodically, the Bears fought back to tie and then take the lead before half time.

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Halftime Score: California 12, UCLA 7

08:00 Danny Barrett 5, Russell Webb 2

11:00 UCLA (Seb Sharpe) 5, (Ben Francis) 2

12:00 Russell Webb 5, Jake Anderson 2

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Freshman from Hong Kong Russell Webb made a nice play kicking the ball to himself and outrunning the defender to allow the Bears to go up by two scores.

13:00 Jake Anderson 5, 2

Jake Anderson with a Jeremy Ross like move to leap over a UCLA player on his way to a long try run.

UCLA got a final, meaningless try to end the game.

Final Score: California 33, UCLA 21

The Team vs. UCLA:

1. Coquillard, 2. Harrington, 3. Barrett, 4. Webb, 5. Anderson, 6. Kelly (c), 7. Battaglia
Replacements: Boyer, Chehade, Barrientes

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Here are your main scorers for the semifinal match. Junior Jake Anderson (left) with the try that sealed the win and senior Danny Barrett (right) with 3 tries (from close range kind of in a football goalline back role).

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Here is look at the Cal and UCLA supporters with the Bears with the game in hand. With a 33-21 final score, the Bears advanced to the final. The semifinal game was aired live on NBC Sports Net and replayed on NBC to broadcast Cal's dominance over UCLA to the whole country.

BETWEEN GAME DIVERSIONS:

In between games and there were quite a few games between the 3 other trophies award to teams below the Championship Round (Shield, Bowl, and Plate as consolation for teams 9-12, 13-16, 17-20 respectively) not to mention high school, collegiate women, and even armed forces, the fans are treated to some entertainment by the "USA7s Sweethearts"
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as well as a bunch of your typical stadium entertainments. The dancers also provided company to some of the eliminated rugby squads in the lunch room (the kind of behind the scene info that you only get from CGB).

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An outdoor area provide a bunch of other diversion with a band and tents to introduce people to stuff from New Zealand food to "Netball" (basketball without dribbling).

CRC FINAL:

Back to Rugby, the much anticipated Championship matchup between the two clear best teams was about to start. It would be the Golden Bears against the Life Running Eagles (that's an oxymoron), who sunk Navy in the semifinals, and their mascot, this guy:
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Is it just me or does the Running Eagle mascot for Life has some weird calf implant there? Not sure even Johnny Drama would want that.

Bears have actually played Life in sevens just last year in the bronze medal game at the 2012 CRC. Bears won that one 26-7.

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Life is in a light green colored uniform, the same color tone that devote life in video games.

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Here is Cal captain and poster boy of the entire tournament evading some Life ruggers.

The Championship Scoring Timeline vs. Life:

02:00 Danny Barrett 5, Russell Webb 2

07:00 Danny Barrett 5, Russell Webb 2

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Once again Danny Barrett (middle) was the scoring machine for the Bears. The Bears marched down the field, showing willingness to go to both sides. Then use Barrett for the short gains for the tries.

Halftime: California 14, Life 0

09:00 Seamus Kelly 5

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Bears are up rather comfortably with just under 5 minutes left in the game.

Of course, Life would not give up without a fight.

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Here is a Bear "hanging on for dear life" on a Running Eagles player trying to score.

11:00 Life (Colton Cariaga) 5, (Joe Cowley) 2

13:00 Life (Joe Cowley) 5, 2

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Life made it a one scoring game (with the possibly of a score and a try to give them a come from behind win). Cal Rugby fans probably can't help but to think back to the last second heartbreaker in the Varsity Cup Championship game earlier this season.

But the Bears got the ball back with the clock winding down. A kick of the ball out of bound by Webb and the Bears are celebrating their very first CRC Sevens Championship!

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And it is time to celebrate! It is the Bears' first major National Championship claim since the 15s won the National Championship in 2011.

Final Score: California 19, Life 14

The Team vs. Life:

1. Chehade, 2. Harrington, 3. Barrett, 4. Webb, 5. Anderson, 6. Kelly ©, 7. Battaglia
Replacement: Boyer

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Of course, first you have demonstrate sportsmanship.
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Smile for the cameras! Your 2013 CRC Winning California Golden Bears!

With a 19-14 final triumph over Life, the Bears each get a nice medal:
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Even with the red strap, that looks pretty sharp on the Cal Rugby Uniform. Don't you think?

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Seamus Kelly (left) was named the MVP of the tournament.

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Here is Coach Jack Clark with the championship trophy: the Pete Dawkins Trophy, named for the three-time Oxford Blue and Rhodes Scholar who also won the Heisman Trophy as a gridiron halfback for Army at West Point before a decorated military career that ended with his rank of Brigadier General.

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Bears received the championship trophy from the tournament director.

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PPL Park is Bear Territory!!!

And then the media types started to bombard the players and coaches with questions. Had I been more prepared to have enough disc space on my phone and camera, I could have actual quotes and not just paraphrasing, but I'm just a fan blogger. I do get some satisfaction in sticking my phone in fron of Coach Jack Clark's face even if it didn't really record anything.

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Jack Clark with some well deserved extra publicity on NBC Sports.

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Senior Danny Barrett talking to the media afte scoring 7 tries for the day (2 against Arizona, 3 against UCLA, and 2 to open the scoring against Life). Barrett talked about how "school is first" (will graduate in December) and wait and see where Rugby can take him. He also said that he think how former Golden Bears and current Philadelphia Eagles Mychal Kendricks would be "a beast" if he plays rugby.

Not to sound too much like an older alum (such as FiatLux) since I am not that old (or mature yet), but I was really impressed by the composure and professionalism shown by all the Cal rugby young men in what is probably a very emotional even if joyous situation.

In closing, a huge congrats to the entire Cal Rugby family for winning the CRC Sevens and start a new tradition of winning Rugby Sevens tournament. I would not be surprised if we are doing a Calympic profile for Seamus Kelly for the Rio 2016 games. Look for Coach Clark and Cal Rugby to allow Cal to claim more Olympians and Olympic medals in the near future.

ROLL ON YOU BEARS!


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