Arizona entered pool D as the heavy favorite, and had the benefit of playing in Columbus, Ohio, last year. The rest of the rookies had a clean slate and needed to battle it out for the second seed into the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship cup round tomorrow.
First-round suspicions suggested that Texas would be that team, as it knocked off Oklahoma 24-12. The team showcased some excellent team speed, demonstrated by the fact that Kye Heck, Eric Kuikens, Alexi Mendoza and Tod Mullen all scored tries. The team followed with an equally impressive 19-0 win over Temple during round two, setting up a final match against fellow undefeated team, Arizona.
|Arizona didn't allow a single point against. (Marvin Dangerfield)|
|Texas looks to peak during the Cup round. (Marvin Dangerfield)|
Before taking on the heavy favorites, Noah Villalobos was ecstatic with what his team had achieved thus far.
"I think we've been playing really well so far," Villalobos said. "We've been working together as a team like we never have before. A lot of things are coming together that have been dormant for the last month, because we haven't been playing in big tournaments, just practicing."
Villalobos was particularly impressed with the Long Horns’ skill in contact, considering the team hadn’t hit in the last month as well. Villalobos, who scored two tries in the Temple game, acknowledged that the team still had room to grow, and that room was enough for Arizona to take advantage in round three.
The teams went to toe to toe in the first half, but Arizona’s Peter Tiberio lit up the scoreboard just before the halftime whistle, and converted the score for the 7-0 lead. Another try and another Tiberio seven-pointer put the game out of reach, 19-0.
Arizona not only went undefeated on the day but went unscored upon, beating Temple 28-0 and then Oklahoma 38-0. Tiberio was utterly unstoppable, scoring eight tries on the day. If we wasn’t outdazzling defenders one on one, he was dummying an outlet pass from atop the lineout and running in the score past a surprised defense.
Arizona has lived up to the hype thus far.
Temple and Oklahoma struggled in their first two rounds, both losing to Arizona and Texas, and attempted to salvage a win in the third round. Oklahoma's passing was a little more consistent, the defense was more sure than Temple. Oklahoma made good use of the scoring opportunities it had and ended the day with a 22-5 victory. Unfortunately for the boisterous hometown fans, Temple exited pool play winless, although they did have the chance to cheer on the team's lone try to end the day.
Arizona and Texas head to the Cup bracket tomorrow, while Oklahoma and Temple duke it out in the Challenger division.