WILDCATS REACH TOP Eight in ATLANTA
Rugby Sevens COLLEGIATE CHAMpionship
Antonio Gonzalez and a young Wildcat side impressed with a run to the Cup Quarterfinals. (Photo credits: Jack Megaw)
May 22- Arizona concluded their 2022 season last weekend with another national television opportunity, taking on the nation's best at the Rugby Sevens Collegiate Championships on NBC. Commencement weekend conflicts meant a young Wildcats side of mostly underclassmen would be given the tall task of Pool A against Penn State, Lindenwood, and Clemson.
GAME ONE- PENN STATE
Arizona's lack of experience was a contrast to Penn State, as the Nittany Lions competed in a number of events this Spring in preparation for Atlanta. Penn State got the better of the Wildcats in the first half, with Mattox King's lone try sandwiched between two Nittany Lion scores to make it 14-7 at the break. "The first halftime of the weekend is always the most important. We underperformed but the message was we have a lot of Rugby left not just in this game but on the weekend so let's make a vow right now to get back to our plan" said Director of Rugby Sean Duffy. The Wildcats did just that, with a try in the tenth minute by Ian Furst to cut it to 14-12. This set the stage for standout Freshman Ted Champion, as the Canadian Flyhalf spotted a gap and gathered his own kick for a try in the 13th minute that Robert Figley converted to take a 19-14 lead. Some dogged defense and a forced turnover by Maxime Cathala sealed the victory for the Wildcats to move them to 1-0.
Final score: Arizona 19, Penn State 14
GAME TWO- LINDENWOOD
A spot in Pool A typically means facing the tournament's top overall seed and Saturday was just that as the Wildcats took on the most recent Sevens champion, Lindenwood. The strong Lions squad humbled the Wildcats, racing out to an early lead and taking advantage of mistakes and penalties. A late Antonio Gonzalez try set up by Harry Hobson was all that the Wildcats could muster as they dropped to 1-1. "Tough one, but losses like that articulate the why of some of the things we teach, and that makes you better in the long run if you learn from it" said Duffy.
Final score: Lindenwood 43, Arizona 5
GAME THREE- CLEMSON
After Clemson's defeat of Penn State, the final match of the day would become the decider for a spot in the Cup Quarterfinals. In addition, the match was featured on national television, putting the squad in the spotlight. Sophomore Jacob Broselle seized the spotlight with two hands and showed the form that earned him a USA Under-20 invitation this past Winter, opening the scoring with a try and then touching down with a fantastic effort to end the half. A Maxime Cathala score made it 21-7 at half and put them seven minutes away from the top eight. In the second half, the Wildcats' depth was on full display as Freshmen Antonio Gonzalez and Mattox King each notched tries before a beautiful game-ending Ian Furst score sealed the victory for the Wildcats and advanced them to the Cup Quarterfinals for the first time since 2018.
Final score: Arizona 38, Clemson 7
CUP QUARTERFINAL- LINDENWOOD
The event's re-seeding of the top eight based on match points and differential meant that the Wildcats would get a rare opportunity, a rematch with Lindenwood in the Cup Quarterfinal. The Lions showed their pool play form early, running out to a 12-0 lead. It was at this moment that the young squad really began to show their promise. A Harry Hobson score in the 7th minute made it 12-5 at half, and the Wildcats started the second half strong as Jacob Broselle's try tied the game at 12 with just under four minutes left. Unfortunately, it was not to be for the Wildcats as the Lions responded with an 11th minute try to make it 19-12 before a late score sealed the 24-12 loss. For the Wildcats though, the change in the games was a huge step. "We felt we underperformed the first match, and to play the same team again 24 hours later and be in control for spurts like that was a huge step. We needed one more play, a try, a linebreak, a defensive stop and Lindenwood was the one that made it. Credit to them but also credit to our guys for making that leap. Only upward from here" said Duffy.
The Wildcats end the season in the top eight in Sevens, their best finish since the 2018 side that went to the Cup Semifinals of the event (then called the Collegiate Rugby Championships). With the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out the event the last two years, the return of the event and the growth of the young side puts the Wildcats in a great spot for the future.
Cup Champions: Life
Cup Runner-Up: Lindenwood
Cup Semifinalists: Davenport, Saint Mary's
Cup Quarterfinalists: Arizona, Cal Poly, Central Washington, UCLA
Game 1 vs Penn State- W 19-14
Tries: King, Furst, Champion
Conversions: Cathala 1/2, R. Figley 1/1
Game 2 vs Lindenwood- L 43-5
Conversions: Cathala 0/1
Game 3 vs Clemson- W 38-7
Tries: Broselle (2), Cathala, Gonzalez, King, Furst
Conversions: Cathala 4/6
Cup Quarterfinals vs Lindenwood- L 24-12
Tries: Hobson, Broselle
Conversions: Cathala 1/2