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Mar, 2017

Rugby 7's Magazine Sums up the HOA


Dustin RosenMarch 28, 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Steve Zomberg

A Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship bid was on the line, and Christian Adams of American International College “AIC”  Rugby was still trying to get a monkey off of his back, from the year before when AIC fell inches short, at the 2016 USA College 7s Rugby Championship. (see video)

The 2017 Heart of America Classic was a tournament where this could happen, as AIC Rugby competed for a rare spot at the Collegiate Rugby Championship’s “CRC’s”. The brackets fell in such a way, where the Semi Final Match between AIC and Davenport University was arguably the CUP FINAL. Both teams went back and forth as neither team showed to be better than the other. The game would come down to simply who wanted it more.

Christian Adams got the ball out wide on the wing and kicked it into gear. As he got closer to the try zone, Davenport had one last chance to make a tackle or “hold the ball up” in the try zone. Davenport made the tackle in the try zone and all you could hear were several Davenport players saying “It’s held up. It’s held up”.  Adams knew it was not held up, but he still held his breathe hoping the touch judge agreed with him, as flash backs from the 2016 USA College 7s Rugby Championship’s entered his mind. The try was confirmed and AIC advanced to the CUP FINAL against Ohio State.

Ohio State played incredible Rugby all weekend long, grabbing the overall #1 seed headed into knockout stages but in the CUP FINAL against AIC, it seemed like they had nothing left to give. AIC controlled the entire game. I never want to imply a team “gave up” but it certainly seemed that way. You could tell there may have been something more going on for Ohio State, rather than just lack of energy. There was no fire in them. After AIC took an early two try lead, an Ohio State player said “Nice try man. Nice run”. WHAT!? I get sportsmanship and we should always have it, but it just seemed out of place for such a big moment. AIC punched their ticket to the CRC’s with ease, beating Ohio State 28-0.

AIC was a feel good story and we’re excited to see how much more interesting that story gets come June (Feelings are the same for LVI Qualifier, Lindenwood). That said, the rest of the Heart of America Classic tournament was a story line in itself. You got the feeling that Basketball wasn’t the only Madness going on in March. These Mid-Tier teams came with it! The heart, passion, fight, will and determination these kids brought to the field were refreshing to watch. You could really tell how much these kids wanted to win and some of the Bottom-Tier teams could careless who they were playing. They felt in everyway that they could knock out anyone. (Check out this video: “What would it mean to you to compete in the CRCs?”)

K-State was one of those teams for sure, as they snuck their way in to the top 12 teams that competed in the knockout stages—and then won back to back matches against Michigan and North Texas. Unfortunately, in the “Elite 8”, Davenport was to much for the home town fan favorites.

North Texas had a little fire of their own and if they were able to prevent the K-State upset, they could have made some noise the rest of the way, as they lost to the Champions 12-7 in their first match of the tournament. You have to think if a team can put up a showing against the tournament Champs, they certainly had what it took to shock some people. If the ball bounced a couple different ways, North Texas could have been an awesome story.

Michigan had the chance to be a really neat story, as the CRCs chose to not invite them back this year but they weren’t able to make some noise. That said, they were much better than where they finished.

Wyoming on the other hand did make some noise in the knockout rounds, winning back to back matches against Lindenwood and Missouri but weren’t able to go any farther than that, as Ohio State had to much speed to keep up with in the “Elite 8”. That said, Wyoming was certainly fun to watch and the boys on their squad really knew how to enjoy themselves. In my opinion, they did not have enough speed out on the field or enough play makers to beat some of the faster squads.

LU-Belleville was very impressive to watch. They had a lot of great play makers on the field but we still think their program is just to young to get over the hurdle. If the boys on the squad stick together they will be a very very dangerous team (at least on the 7s pitch) for years to come. Be sure to keep a close eye on Pat Clifton’s boys. They certainly have all the tools they need to be a great squad, only lacking time together. One thing in particular that I got wind of, was the LU-Belleville parents have a facebook group where they have constant communication and updates about the team. I applaud those parents and the structure around the program making that happen.

Arkansas was another great team over the weekend, and certainly had the tools to make a run. Unfortunately, they fell to a fast Ohio State team in the knockout rounds. Honestly, they had it way to easy on Day 1 playing a mediocre Michigan team and LU-Belleville’s second side. It’s possible not being tested in that first day really caused a mental disadvantage having to play the #1 seed in Ohio State their first game of Day 2.

Oklahoma could have really shocked the tournament, after barely losing to tournament Champs, AIC in the “Elite 8” by one try. It certainly was shocking to see them hang tight with AIC, after barely getting by a very young Louisville team and Lindenwood’s second side during pool play. I spoke with a couple of their players and they mentioned having a really tough season but looked at the tournament as hope to reconcile their whole season. I suppose they came with such a hard fight with hopes to do that.

Davenport arguably played in the “Championship Match” against AIC in the Semi-Finals and nearly pulled it off. As I mentioned earlier, that match came down to the final whistle. After day 1, I announced AIC Rugby was our favorite to win the tournament. However, I felt very nervous after watching Davenport play earlier against K-State. Boy oh boy those guys over in Davenport really looked good! The chemistry, structure, discipline, organization and skill were all there to get the job done. In my opinion, AIC may have been a little bit more physical then them and that is what decided the match. If Davenport found a way to pull off the Win, I firmly believe they would have beat Ohio State, or any other team in the Final. They are our tournament favorites heading into the USA College Rugby 7s Championship–so long as they make it.

The rest of the teams: Lindenwood’s second side, New Hampshire, Iowa State, Louisville, Nebraska, LU-Belleville’s second side and Minnesota were just not experienced enough to compete. However, all of the programs seemed to be in good hands for the future and we are very excited to see how these young teams evolve. That said, it was Iowa State that led the way, as they took home the Plate in an Overtime match against Louisville.

2017 Heart of America Classic was a blast and the tournament was ran very smoothly with plenty of opportunity for all teams involved. The KC Rugby staff were superb and did everything right to hold a tournament, as there was nothing but good Rugby fun all weekend long. Until next year,………We’ll see you at CRC’s!

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