For its first appearance in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby 7s Championship, St. Bonaventure sure left a mark.
Seeded No. 1 in the Bowl bracket after Saturday’s pool play, the Bonnies thumped Boston College, 40-0, and Colorado, 22-0, Sunday morning to reach the Bowl title match. They saved their heart-stopping best for last.
Down 12-5 with less than 3:15 to play, North Westall and Alex Chura scored shorthanded tries to defeat the University of Notre Dame, 15-12, to claim the CRC Bowl. ESPN’s color analyst commented that he couldn’t recall a team scoring two shorthanded goals at the elite level in seven-man rugby.
On Saturday in pool play, the Bonnies defeated Notre Dame, 28-21, when Chaz Schwenk outraced an Irish defender to field a brilliant kick pass to score on the match’s final play. Schwenk also scored on the final play of the first half.
“We knew we had to dig deep for this match after beating them (Saturday),” said Tui Osborne, head coach of the Bonnies. “I’m proud of their resilience and the way we handled that situation. We didn’t panic and executed well when we were down a man.”
In their other pool play games on Saturday, the Bonnies lost to Penn State, 19-0, and UCLA, 40-0; both of those teams advanced to the eight-team championship Cup bracket. Only two of the six pools in the 24-team tournament advanced two teams to the Cup bracket.
The tournament breaks into Cup, Plate and Bowl brackets after Saturday’s pool play.
“We were definitely not in an easy pool. Penn State and UCLA are two very good teams and in sevens you really have to stay focused and be relentless in defense. Possession is key,” Osborne said, alluding to some sloppy ball-handling that proved costly in each game. “But in fairness, both teams put us under pressure and we had a tough time executing our game plan.”
Osborne pointed to strong performances from Chura, Schwenk, Westall, Christian Artuso and Eamonn Matthews, but he stressed, “We couldn’t have done it without a collaborative team effort today.”
Four of the Bonnies’ six games were broadcast on one of the ESPN channel or streaming platforms.
“We’ve been training for this tournament since January, played some tough competition in the spring season and had a two-week camp after graduation, so I’m not surprised we did so well,” Osborne said. “It’s definitely something to be proud of. It means a lot for the program, our school, alumni, family and fans.”
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