2016 PAC Rugby Sevens Championship
Freshman Ben Scoular was named to the all tournament team after his stellar weekend for the Wildcats.
Oct 24- Arizona embarked on their Sevens finale of the Fall this past weekend, hosting the PAC Rugby Sevens Championship for the first time in program history. The Wildcats joined seven of the conference's top teams at Kino Sports Complex equipped with an 1,800 seat stadium, team locker rooms, and the PAC-12 Network as the tournament's broadcast partner.
The Wildcats kicked off pool play against Utah, with the teams meeting in a rematch of sorts having met in D1A Quarterfinals last year. While playing a different form of Rugby, the teams both came out firing, as Ben Joseph set up Ryan Hudson for their first try of the weekend to make it 7-0 Arizona after a Shane Dempsey conversion. With their attack stalling due to some stout Ute defense, this was the only score of the first half before team captain Kyle Rogers touched down to kick off the second half to make it 12-0 for the home side. A late Utah try was not enough for the visitors as the Wildcats moved to 1-0.
In game two, Arizona rotated their lineup to take a look at some younger players, with the mostly Freshmen side taking on Stanford. Keeping with the theme from game one, Ryan Hudson scored to open it up before getting a second try to make it 10-0 Wildcats at half. Keeping the defensive pressure on, the young group added a try in the tenth minute by Luke Thayer, the first of his sevens career to secure the 15-0 victory for the Wildcats.
This set the stage for arguably the most dramatic match of the tournament, with last year's national runner up and third place team squaring off in UCLA and Arizona, respectively. A Utah victory over UCLA meant that the Wildcats could finish anywhere from first to third in their pool based on points. The Bruins struck first, scoring a try to open the game before Garrett Walker responded with his first try of the weekend to end the first half and make it 7-7 at halftime. The score remained deadlocked for much of the second half before Jake Hedge dotted down in the 13th minute, the first of his career and what appeared to be the game-winner for the Wildcats, now leading 10-5 after a missed conversion. Unfortunately it was not to be, as the Bruins responded in the 14th minute to score and hit the conversion to make it 12-10 with just seconds left. An Arizona turnover sealed it and left Pool B with three 2-1 teams. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Utah and UCLA advanced based on point differential, putting the hosts in the Bowl round on day two. "We were dissapointed to lose out on tiebreakers but that's how life in Sevens goes when you don't play up to your potential" said Head Coach Sean Duffy. "We had our chances, and between an underwhelming performance against Stanford and a lack of ability to finish against UCLA, we came up short."
Arizona set out to improve on these issues on day two, and got off to a fair start in the Bowl Semifinal against Oregon on Sunday morning. Ben Scoular got the scoring started, touching down two minutes in to put the Wildcats up 7-0 early. A beautiful long try by Jonah Eldridge and a game-sealing score from Shane Dempsey gave the Wildcats the 19-7 victory and advanced them to the Bowl Final against Colorado.
In a rematch of last year's day two matchup won narrowly by the Wildcats, Arizona and Colorado took the field live on the PAC-12 Network with Arizona looking to hit their stride. Another try by Scoular made it 7-0 at halftime before the floodgates finally opened for Arizona. In a dominant stretch, the Wildcats held the ball for the entire second half, stealing four kickoffs and scoring 22 points with tries from Rogers, Scoular, Joseph, and Hedge to end the weekend with an emphatic 29-0 victory. With his two tries in the final capping off a fantastic weekend, Ben Scoular was selected for the all tournament team.
The victory was a great building block, and a good sign for the future for the team as they close out the preseason. The weekend also marked Arizona's first time hosting the tournament, with the event in 2016 and 2017 slated for Tucson. "We're thrilled at how the tournament went overall and to hear that feeling be mutual from the city, the teams, and the PAC-12 Network gets us excited to do it even better next November" said Duffy. Next year's edition will complete the two-year rotation cycle for the tournament before a 2018 host is selected by the conference.
The Wildcats officially close out their preseason this Friday with the 2nd Annual Red-Blue Game benefitting the Humane Society. Arizona will then turn their attention to the start of their regular season this coming January, with their schedule to be announced shortly.
Game 1 vs Utah- W 12-5
Tries: Hudson, Rogers
Conversions: Dempsey- 1/2
Game 2 vs Stanford- W 15-0
Tries: Hudson (2), Thayer
Conversions: Grigoriou- 0/3
Game 3 vs UCLA- L 12-10
Tries: Walker, Hedge
Conversions: Eldridge- 0/1, K. Rogers- 0/1
Bowl Semifinal vs Oregon- W 19-7
Tries: Scoular, Eldridge, Dempsey
Conversions: Dempsey- 2/3
Cup Final vs Colorado- W 29-0
Tries: Scoular (2), Rogers, Joseph, Hedge
Conversions: Dempsey- 2/5