FINAL TUNEUP COMPLETE FOR CATS AT CELTIC SEVENS
Garrett Walker '19 was one of a handful of freshmen to make a strong impression this weekend in New Mexico.
May 25- Arizona completed one of their final tuneups for the upcoming Collegiate Rugby Championship this past weekend as they traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the Celtic Sevens. Slotted in Pool D, the Wildcats set out to use this tournament as a final audition for places in the CRC roster and an opportunity to establish continuity.
The Wildcats opened up against Las Cruces RFC, and got the scoring started on a Jonah Eldridge try in the first minute. While the team worked through their pattern early, the scoring continued in the second period, with Dante Weeks scoring his second of the game and Kyle Rogers finishing the game off to seal a 28-0 victory for Arizona.
In game two, Arizona took on New Mexico Tech, with the two college sides duking it out in the first half and the Wildcats striking first with tries by Ben Joseph and Jack San Pietro. A Ryan Fitzpatrick score ended the half at 19-0 Arizona before Eldridge and a second San Pietro try sealed a 33-0 victory.
Game three pitted the Wildcats against Cannon AFB, with some strong early defense leading to Shane Dempsey's first try of the day before Weeks' score made it 14-0 at half. In the second period, the Wildcats began to show their trademark attacking flair, with Garrett Walker and Kyle Rogers each scoring twice in the 28-0 second half run that led to a 42-0 victory for Arizona and clinched Pool D.
In the Cup Semifinals, Arizona took on Santa Fe RFC with Ben Joseph putting in a tremendous half, scoring twice and giving the Wildcats a 14-0 lead just two minutes in. Tries by Shane Dempsey and Dante Weeks made it 28-0 at half before a try by Walker cemented the 35-0 win and spot in the Cup Final.
In the Cup Final, Arizona took on New Mexico-Highlands, with some tremendous work on both sides leading to an entertaining affair. Jonah Eldridge's 2nd minute try got the scoring early before the Vatos responded two minutes later. A Kyle Rogers try was responded to a minute later, leading to a 10-10 halftime scoreline. In the second half, a Dante Weeks try was all that could be mustered before the tense final seconds of a tie game. Despite some dogged defense and work, the Vatos scored as time expired to take the Cup from the Wildcats 22-17.
Despite the loss, Head Coach Sean Duffy was thrilled to hit team objectives on the weekend. "First and foremost, we want to give guys a final shot to earn their way onto the CRC roster and not only that, earn their way into our top group. Secondly, we want to establish continuity and identify areas that need addressing before it really matters. Third, we want to emerge injury free. Luckily for us we did all of those and while obviously winning this tourney is nice, we're really using this as a buildup for us to the Championship and being experimental with our lineups to really gauge who's up to the task." Coach Duffy also pointed to the contributions of some new faces as a great sign. "Guys like Garrett Walker and Ryan Fitzpatrick continue to make huge strides and in particular impressed me with their desire and workrate, and they've given themselves a great chance at being in the 12 for Philly."
The Wildcats will return to Tucson for a week of training this week before heading to Philadelphia for the June 4-5 tournament. Arizona will take on Navy, Army, and Saint Joseph's (PA) in pool play and hopes to build on last year's 3rd place finish.
Game 1 vs Las Cruces
Tries: Weeks (2), Eldridge, K. Rogers
Conv: Dempsey- 2/4
Game 2 vs NM Tech
Tries: San Pietro (2), Eldridge, Joseph, FItzpatrick
Conv: Eldridge- 3/4; Dempsey- 1/1
Game 3 vs Cannon AFB
Tries: K. Rogers (2), Walker (2), Dempsey, Weeks
Conv: K. Rogers- 4/4; Dempsey- 2/2
Cup Semifinal vs Santa Fe
Tries: Joseph (2), Dempsey, Weeks, Walker
Conv: Dempsey- 5/5
Cup Final vs NM Highlands
Tries: Eldridge, K. Rogers, Weeks
Conv: Eldridge- 1/1; Dempsey- 0/2