Dartmouth was the fitter, more aggressive team on the day, and the Big Green were rewarded with a 24-5 victory over Arizona for their second consecutive USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship.
The first couple minutes were shaky for both sides – big knock-ons from both sides just before some open space was invaded. A nice battle on the wing between Arizona’s Cody Naber and Dartmouth’s Kevin Clark developed. The Dartmouth wing was poised for two breakaways around the corner, but Naber harpooned his ankles to quell the immediate threats.
On the third match-up, however, Clark won the battle and took the sideline for the try. Scrumhalf Derek Fish hit the conversion for the 7-0 lead after five minutes.
This first score evolved as Trent Fischer writhed on the ground with a leg injury that eventually took him out of the game. Integral to Arizona’s game in every way, the Wildcats did a good job of containing Dartmouth while medics attended to him, but the team finally broke under the pressure.
Soon afterward, Peter Tiberio mysteriously dropped a routine pass in the middle of the field, casting a helpless hand to the sideline. Turned out the 7s Eagle had injured – possibly broke – his forearm, and he’d come off the field before halftime.
Losing two of their most influential players during the first quarter visibly depressed the Wildcats; a collective droop of the shoulders could be seen – Arizona was exhausted.
Dartmouth pounced. They hit every ruck, whether their own or Arizona’s, with such voracity that they were able to steal several breakdowns successfully and further frustrate the Wildcats' attack. Less than three minutes after Clark’s opening try, the wing reconsidered another go at the corner and instead fed it back inside as two defenders came in for the kill. A defensive misalignment allowed some quick passes back and forth toward the tryline, and Will Mueller finished off the series with a Fish-converted try, 14-0.
Although Arizona collectively looked tired, Jack Arnold was still firing on all cylinders and took his side to Dartmouth’s 22 meter from the next kickoff. He was unsupported, however, so Dartmouth had no problem poaching the ball and returning the breakaway. Inside the 22 meter, Madison Hughes and Mueller worked the 2-on-2 perfectly, and Mueller easily sidestepped the outstretched arms of Thompson for the try, 19-0.
Just when it looked like Thompson needed to be substituted, the prop dummied his way past the line then outran Hughes for 30-plus meters and Arizona’s lone try, 19-5 into the break.
Arizona worked their bench in the second 10-minute half, and to their credit, the Wildcats held Dartmouth to only one try from Will Lehmann in the 15th minute, 24-5. Dartmouth had to overcome obstacles of their own; Paul Jarvis, with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle, and the Big Green had to finish out the match a man down. But they did so as aggressively as they began – no one taking a breather or delaying their way to a set piece. It was an impressive final performance, and Dartmouth deserves the repeat celebrations.