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The 16 best teams in men and women’s club rugby faced off in New York; here’s what went down.
Bulldog Bullies - Men's Cup Champs
Under head coach Stephen Lewis, the Bulldog rugby program put out a collection of players that dominated the college rugby scene this year. The young legs made their presence most felt on the defensive end with their relentless pressure.
The roster featured Lindenwood sevens trio Cristian Rodriguez, Juan Romero, and Chris Schoeman, 2018 USA Rugby Nationals and CRC champions. Bulldog’s straight-line runner, Harley Wheeler, scored two tries in today’s final to go with his three tries in the D1A national championship with Life only a few months ago.
The squad had its veterans too, Tim Stanfill and Michael Nelson (MVP of the final), who have now won four championships in 11 years.
It was the defensive pattern for Bulldog that put them above the rest. Every team had flyers, but Bulldog made their 1-v-1 tackles and made the field seem a little more narrow for the opposing attackers.
Surfin’ To Victory - Women's Cup Champs
Coolest team name award? Just call the San Diego Surfers national champions. From the minute the Surfers got the ball in their first match it was clear they had better handling ability than any team in the Women’s competition. They moved the ball fluidly from sideline to sideline which was devastating to cover defenses.
Many teams in the tournament got shaken by the pressure of fast and connected opposing defensive lines, but the Surfers knew where they wanted to attack and never panicked under pressure. In the final Scion’s physicality was hard to match, but it came down to a scrappy showdown and the Surfers were often able to use Scion’s aggressiveness against them. The nail in the coffin came off a fierce counter-ruck. The Surfers were able to clear the ball away with two passes, gather the ball from a bounce pass and quickly get to full speed for a try.
Stephanie Rovetti was again the hero with two tries in the final. She scored in every game on Sunday for San Diego.
Boston Bronze - Third Place
Mystic River put up a better fight than Belmont Shore against Bulldog in the Semifinal, but in the end that means nothing: third is third.
Don’t take that as too much of a slight, Mystic River. As fans can expect the Boston boys to be around for a while as they boasted some of the best young talent of any team not named Bulldog
Their young playmaker, Jerron Pantor, put his hand up as a possible player of the tournament. He was a human highlight reel from flyhalf and was able to use his boot better than pretty much any other team this weekend. Pantor is from Trinidad, but Mystic River may want to make some plans to keep him around Boston. Pantor could be a huge asset to their D1 national champion 15s side and in a year or two maybe bring home the 7s cup.
Scion A Try Short - Finalist
Standing side by side to any team in the women’s tournament Scion would be Goliath and the opponent would be David. In the final, the tale played out and the Surfers weathered the aggressive Scion defense.
Scion out-gunned every other team they played and it was apparent in the semifinal match against Life West. Life West won the 15s national championship, but the speed Scion played with must have made that pitch feel enormous. In the final Scion made a few too many handling errors. Against a team like the Surfers, that can possess the ball for fourteen minutes, it only takes a couple mistakes to seal the deal.