Cal is bigger than Dartmouth. They’re more physical, usually, and it caused the Big Green to send two people into the breakdown much of the game to ensure ball retention.
“That’s something we really train for a good contact team like Cal. They’re obviously real physical, real strong in the ruck, poach, things like that,” said Dartmouth senior Derek Fish.
“So we knew if we had to adjust we could go to two people in the breakdown, and we did that and it worked.”
Dartmouth did need two guys in the ruck much of the second half. And they needed a couple of electric breaks from freshman phenom Madison Hughes. But what they needed in crunch time were two stolen scrums.
Twice Cal had the put-in on scrums deep in their own half with the clock either dead or close to it, and twice Dartmouth’s front row of Nate Brakeley, Will Mueller and Paul Jarvis took the ball against the head. The second steal resulted in Kevin Clark’s game-winning try.
“Did a good job pushing, beating them,” said Fish. “Brakeley got a good hook in there and we were able to steal twice in a row.”
Cal is young, and two of their stars – Brad Harrington and Danny Barrett – missed different parts of the semifinal. Dartmouth, on the other hand, is experienced, if nothing else. The aforementioned front row, Fish, Will Lehmann and Clark Judge are all seniors.
“This group’s been together, these seniors have been together, for a long time, played a lot of 7s. We knew if we stuck to to our guns we’d be able to come back and we did that,” Fish said.
The only thing standing between the Big Green and a CRC repeat is Arizona, led by All American and 7s Eagle Peter Tiberio and former gridiron Wildcat Brett Thompson.
“Obviously, they’ve got a couple of stud players,” said Fish. “Got to keep an eye on them, and they play a real good team game. We just need to really worry about our stuff – keep the ball, good passes, good support, and we’ll get it done.”