Paced by the speed of All American Tim Stanfill and with power up front and outstanding teamwork, Central Washington defeated all-comers to take their second-straight Northwest Collegiate Rugby 7s Championships Sunday at Memorial Stadium in Seattle.
Playing under the shadow of the Space Needle (one of the most elegant-looking buildings in the USA), and next to the huge Experience Music Project (easily one of the country’s ugliest structures), CWU decided to emulate the Space Needle and put in a clinic on timeless rugby tenets.
The nine-team competition featured three pools of three teams. In Pool A CWU won easily, beating Washington 47-10 (seven tries by seven different players), and Washington State 24-0.
“All skills all players,” said Stanfill, who would end up with seven tries on the day, leading the tournament. “We stick to our plan and how we play, and we use everybody, and we do well.”
In Pool C, Western Washington showed huge improvement over last year. Despite being a largely player-coached team, the Vikings surprised Idaho, which had started the day with a good victory, beating the Vandals 29-12. They then shut out University of Puget Sound 36-0 to win their pool.
It was a little more confusing in Pool B. Oregon State, paced by hardworking prop Mitchell Farghar and some good teamwork beat Oregon 17-5. But they were upended by Eastern Washington, in part due to a disallowed try early on that the Beavers thought they had. Eric Popolus led EWO to the 17-14 win, but were then upset by Oregon 20-12 in their last game.
“You can’t go in thinking you’re going to roll over anybody,” said Popolus. “We did that and even when we subbed in some guys it didn’t matter – Oregon had the momentum. We learned a lesson.”
Spencer Ams scored two tries for Oregon in that game.
That left all three teams at 1-1. The first tiebreaker was points scored, and that left Oregon State on top, with Eastern Washington 2nd and Oregon 3rd.
EWU made the semifinals, along with OSU, CWU and WWU, thanks to being the top 2nd-place team (once again thanks to the most points tiebreaker).
In the consolation semis, Idaho upset Oregon 7-5, while Washington exacted revenge for their earlier loss to Washington State, defeating the Cougars 19-7. Scrumhalf Justin Santos was a revelation, showing great pace and finally realizing something many players seemed to forget – that the space outside the football sidelines at Memorial Stadium was still field of play for rugby, which used the wide soccer sidelines. Santos used that space to run in two tries against WSU, and three against Idaho to win the Huskies the Plate.
In the Cup semis, Eastern Washington scored early on Central, but CWU then exploded for 40 unanswered points.
“Sometimes the good test of a team is how they respond to something like that, and the guys responded really well,” said CWU Head Coach Bob Ford. “We have some very good athletes and good rugby players, and they played the system and played as a team. It was a team effort.”
Patrick Blair was outstanding for CWU, putting in some big tackles, working hard in the breakdown, and making smart passes.
“He’s a very unselfish player, and we need players like that,” said Ford.
In the final, Central met Western Washington. WWU battled Oregon State in one of the more exciting games of the day. Colin Moy, who had an excellent tournament, broke through for the key score.
Pat Phelps filled the Patrick Blair role for Western, doing all the work, and sometimes slotting in at hooker and sometimes as first receiver. His playmaking was solid, and his defense created scoring opportunities.
“We came out a little slow against Oregon State,” said Phelps. “A lot of our core captains – we don’t have a coach right now, while Adam Roberts has helped with our 7s team – have worked really hard to get us play better. It’s hard to change from 15s to 7s, and it’s very tiring. But the guys worked hard. After each game we go over what we need to fix and build on what we did.”
In the final, Central was again under pressure early. Western looked to have scored, but were held up – a very unpopular decision among the fans. After that Central rebounded. Josh Bower had his best game of the tournament and scored two early tries, while freshman Tanner Barnes impressed with his fearless defense and opportunistic running.
“He’s a very good young player and we’re very excited to have him,” said Ford.
As the game went on Central took control. Stanfill, Alex Reher and finally Jacob Bates all scored, while Western managed one try late.
Central dominated, but the standard improved throughout the competition. Even 9th-place University of Puget Sound showed flashes, especially from snappy scrumhalf Chris Rouse. Rouse didn’t make the all-tournament team, but he, Idaho’s Vrontamitis, Oregon’s Ams, Eastern’s Eric Popolus, OSU’s Farghar, and Washington State’s Ben Bellmont all played extremely well.
“This went very well,” said NCRC President Matt Hudson. “I think we’re going to look at devoting more of the fall to 7s in the Northwest. We can have a series of tournaments, in the East and the West, and in Oregon, culminating in this championship. It makes a lot of sense for these teams, and the players love it.”
All Tournament Team:
Tim Stanfill CWU
Patrick Blair CWU
Pat Phelps WWU
Justin Santos UW
Lars Swenson WSU
Josh Bower CWU
Colin Moy WWU
NCRC 7s Scores and Box Scores
University of Puget Sound 5
University of Idaho 14
University of Oregon 5
Oregon State 17
Tries: Kimmell 2, Farghar
University of Washington 5
Washington State 15
Tries: Swenson, Sullivan, Huylar
University of Idaho 12
Tries: Vrontamitis, Rouse
Western Washington 29
Tries: Grossman, Jensen, Moy 2, P Phelps
Convs: Grossman Moy
Oregon State 14
Tries: Carter, Fargher
Convs: Pitzer 2
Eastern Washington 17
Tries: Popolus, Dreyer, Bowers
University of Washington 10
Tries: Fitzpatrick 2
Central Washington 47
Tries: Barnes, Stanfill, Blair, Bower, Reher, Bates, Lobe
Convs: Stanfill 3, Reher 2, Lobe
Western Washington 36
Tries: J Phelps, Grossman, Jensen, Moy, Colvill
Convs: Moy, Jensen
University of Puget Sound 0
Eastern Washington 12
Tries: Lang, Dreyer
University of Oregon 20
Tries: Ams 2, Pieracci 2
Washington State 0
Central Washington 24
Tries: Stanfill 2, Smith 2
Convs: Reher 2
University of Puget Sound 35
Tries: Lunt, Rouse 2, McILvaine 2, O'Keefe
University of Washington Freshmen 0
University of Oregon 5
Tries: Santos 2, Aurbech
Convs: Fitzpatrick 2
Tries: Carter, Cutrell
Tries: Moy, Colleeen, Colvill
Tries: Stanfill 3, Blair, Barnes, Steikema
Convs: Reher 5
Tries: Bellmont, Swenson
Tries: McCallum, Parker, McDonnell, Smith
Tries: Christensen, Bowers
Tries: Santos 3, Fitzpatrick, Auerbach
Convs: Santos 3, Fitzpatrick
Tries: Koopman, Reed
Tries: Bower 2 Reher, Stanfill, Bates
Convs: Reher 2
Gallery of photos by Cody Secker for RUGBYMag.com.
Photos from the Northwest Collegiate Rugby 7s Championships held in Seattle Oct. 16, 2011.