TALENTED WILDCATS RUN TO TOP THREE FINISH IN NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT
Ben Joseph and Shane Dempsey provided a great deal of spark to the Arizona attack and defense in the team's second straight run to the top three.
June 14- Arizona has completed another strong run at this year's Collegiate Rugby Championship, going 4-1 on the weekend and finishing third in the nationally televised event.
The Wildcats opened pool play with the newly-turned varsity Army, with the Black Knights returning to the CRC after a two year hiatus. Thanks to some
dogged defense and two tries each by Tyler Sousley
and Shane Dempsey, the 20-0 victory for the Cats
started their weekend off on the right foot.
In game two, Arizona took on another service academy,
matching up with Navy in what was a defensive
struggle early. Leading 5-0 at half, two more tries from
Sousley gave him three for the game and the Wildcats
a 17-0 victory to move to 2-0.
Arizona and Saint Joseph's entered the final match of
pool play at 2-0, with the pool decider a rematch
of last year's Hawks victory over the Wildcats.
Ben Joseph emerged as the man of the match,
dotting down twice and playing fantastic defense to
stake the Wildcats to a 14-5 victory and clinch both the pool and a spot in the Cup Quarterfinals for the second straight year. "We were thrilled to go 3-0 and most importantly, thrilled to only give up 5 points on the day" said Head Coach Sean Duffy.
Seeded 3rd overall and matched up with Life University in the Quarterfinals, the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead on a try from Sousley before the Running Eagles responded to make it 7-5 at halftime. The first deficit of the weekend for the Wildcats was extended in the second half to 12-5 setting up the final minutes. Thanks to some patient play and composure from the young Wildcats, Arizona maintained possession in the final minute and worked their way down the field where Shane Dempsey bulled over the try line for the game-tying score, forcing extra time. With momentum firmly back on the Wildcats' side, more fantastic defense led to a Sousley linebreak, a Kyle Rogers quick tap, and a try by Jonah Eldridge in the right corner to win the game 17-12 and punch their ticket to the Cup Semifinals.
In the Cup Semifinal, Arizona took on 2015 champion Cal, and the Bears jumped to an early lead over the Wildcats before a Matt Rogers try, the first of the CRC by the Freshman. Despite great effort, Arizona was overwhelmed by the veteran Bears, losing 38-5 to finish top three in the event for the second straight year.
For Coach Duffy and the Wildcats, the top three finish marks another great sign for the program that had quite a bit going on around the on-field action. "While we're disappointed to lose in the Semifinals, we're continuing to make strides, going 3-0 in pool play and making strides towards our goals" said Coach Duffy "in addition, it was a fantastic weekend for the program, with William David Sitton and Steve Gray both being inducted into the US Rugby Hall of Fame and scores of alumni making the long trip to Philly to cheer on both our past and current Wildcats. I'd like to thank all of them for attending, especially the Sitton and Gray families." With Rugby's inclusion in the 2016 Olympics, this year's CRC broke attendance records, with over 22,000 fans coming through to see 24 of the nation's best teams.
The CRC marks the end of an exciting year of Arizona Rugby, with a top eight finish in D1A and a top three finish in the CRC laying down a marker for the future of a squad that returns 90% of its roster next Fall.
Game 1 vs Army
Tries: Sousley (2), Dempsey (2)
Conv: Dempsey- 0/4
Game 2 vs Navy
Tries: Sousley (3)
Conv: Dempsey- 1/3
Game 3 vs Saint Joseph's
Tries: Joseph (2)
Conv: Dempsey- 2/2
Cup QF vs Life
Tries: Sousley, Dempsey, Eldridge
Conv: Dempsey- 1/3
Cup SF vs Cal
Tries: M. Rogers- 1/1
Conv: M. Rogers- 0/1
Cesar Davila and Bryce Mantell end the year with another exciting run on national television.