The women’s pool play of the USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship kicked off on June 3, at Drexel University’s Vidas Athletic Complex. Pool B saw Army, Navy, Princeton and North Carolina face off.
|Navy touches down against North Carolina. (Photos by Marvin Dangerfield)|
|A Princeton player is shackled by the Army defense.|
Army was the best team in Pool B. They dominated the first match against Princeton, winning by a score of 24-5 and setting the pace for the rest of the day. Their first try happened when Army managed to ruck over and steal the ball deep in their own half. The team then took the ball all the way to the other try zone for a length of the field score. In a scrum later on, Army won the ball and worked a few phases before getting it to their loosehead prop to score. Princeton had a chance to score after half time but their first attempt was held up. The Tigers won the ball in the following 5-meter scrum and dotted down under the posts for their only score of the match, making the score 12-5. Army responded by getting the ball wide left to out run the defense down the touchline. Princeton had another opportunity to score but the runner was tackled into touch. Army managed one more score at fulltime to make it 24-5.
Navy took on North Carolina in the second match, with a very similar score line to the first game. Navy were very physical all day, putting in big hits and contesting many opposition rucks. Their first score came when they were awarded a penalty in the North Carolina half and used the quick tap to cross the line. Navy stole North Carolina’s lineout in the ensuing possession and worked the ball wide left for the try, making the score 10-0 at halftime. Navy scored two more times in the second half before North Carolina could answer. Their only try came when a quick tap from a penalty was passed out right for the player near the touchline to score. The final score was 22-5 to Navy.
“I’m ecstatic,” Navy coach Sue Parker said. “These girls have never played 7s before. We had the whole team together for the first time yesterday. It was a good test of our mentality and physicality on offense and defense.”
Navy played again in the next Pool B match, but Princeton stole the headlines by pulling off the upset. Despite Navy’s physicality up front, Princeton scored first after they won the turnover ball and passed it quickly out left for the corner try. Princeton put up more points in the second half, after using a quick tap to take the ball deep into Navy territory. The Tigers used a few pick and goes to crash the ball over the line. Their third try came soon after, when their number six used a dummy pass to isolate the defender before taking it the rest of the way herself. Navy managed to earn some consolation when they scored an unconverted try right at the end, but the result was a 21-5 win for Princeton.
After a long break, Army picked up where they left off and won their match against North Carolina, 15-5. Army had a few chances to add to their score but handling errors and penalties at the breakdown gave North Carolina the ball. Even though North Carolina only scored once, they showed what they are capable of by working the ball the width of the pitch and using great continuity and offloads before breaking down the Army defense for the try. Army had one last chance to score before fulltime but a penalty called against them ended the match.
Princeton, being one of two teams going into the tournament non-seeded, looked to build upon their victory over Navy but in the most closely contested Pool B match of the day, North Carolina pulled ahead in the dying moments to pick up their first win. North Carolina started off with a 50-meter score to take the lead, 7-0. Princeton closed the gap after a quick tap off a penalty saw their number 11 run around the outside of the defense to touch down. The Tigers then took the lead with two unconverted tries to make it a 17-7 game. North Carolina was quick to answer though, getting a penalty at the 50 before their flyhalf raced downfield and cut back to score. It still looked like Princeton could hold onto the 3-point lead and win, but one break was all it took. Once again, North Carolina’s flyhalf got the ball and broke through tackles to score in the right corner just as time ran out, making the final score 19-17 in North Carolina’s favor.
Despite the close loss to North Carolina, Princeton punched well above their weight. Head coach Emil Signes said that if his team had prevented North Carolina from centering one of their tries and making the conversion easier, then the Tigers would’ve had a better chance. “When teams play that hard it would be nice to see the results pay off,” he said.
The final Pool B match saw Army take on Navy. For more information on the Army vs. Navy rivalry game, go here.
The teams compete again on Sunday, June 5 in the quarterfinals of the championship at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.