It was a beautiful October day on the campus of The University of Notre Dame for the first ever Notre Dame 7s Invitational at the brand new Stinson Rugby Field.
The sun was shining, the weather was warm and there was some high quality rugby played. It was a tough day for the hosts, the Fighting Irish overall, but the invitational was viewed a success by all those who attended.
Everyone was excited about the invitational and the way it was managed, and the fact that it was played at Notre Dame’s new rugby field, a turf facility with permanent goalpost fixtures, scoreboard, and permanently lined for rugby.
Stinson Rugby Field was dedicated a few weeks ago, and has held 15s games already, but this tournament with Davenport, Lindenwood, Western Michigan, and University of Illinois in attendance, was sort of an unveiling to the Midwest at large.
The new field and the tournament certainly made an impression on the three referees who officiated the event. In a statement sent to Notre Dame, referees Shawn Bastic, Jon Markowitz, and Mitch Albers said: “[This is] our first event refereeing at the new facility, which is first class. Sean O’Leary did an excellent job running the tournament, coordinating the players and the referees, and accommodating the teams. The tournament was marked by spirited and top class play.”
“A great facility,” added Davenport Coach Philip Eloff. “We are glad to see Notre Dame being so fortunate to have this field and we are very happy to be a part of it. The teams here are very good competition for everybody and its good to see Notre Dame putting out such good competition as well.”
The day belonged to Lindenwood University, as they rolled to a 5-0 record for the day and beat Davenport 34-24 in the final. Davenport was a formidable opponent and gave the Lions all they could handle, but in the end Lindenwood’s size and experience proved to be more than they could handle. Davenport was 2-2-1 on the day with their only losses coming from Lindenwood and tying Western Michigan during pool play.
The Irish started the day with a strong performance against Western Michigan beating them by a score of 10-5, but they had their hands full for the rest of the day. The Irish took on Lindenwood and Davenport in pool play and their inexperience showed. Even though the Irish did not accomplish their goal of making it to the Cup round, coach David Fee said he saw a lot to be optimistic about.
“We got out of it what we needed to,” said Fee, who was a teammate of Eloff’s on the USA National Team. “We had some very experienced teams here and we need to get better. We just need more time on the job and opportunities like this will help. There are a lot of positives. We have a lot of athletes and opportunities like this are what we need to get more time on the job. We only have two returners from last year. It’s a learning process, and hopefully we get to where we need to be.”
Notre Dame captain Tom Hickey was very excited about the opportunity to play in the Invitational and said, “we are using this as an opportunity to see where we are as a team and using this as preparation for our 7s season.”
Overall it was a great success for Notre Dame as they look to host more 7s invitationals in the future.