Despite losing the final game of pool play, Principia topped their pool in the Men’s Open competition at USA Rugby’s 7s Collegiate Championships Saturday in Greensboro.
The small Midwestern college looks set to be on a collision course with 3-0 UW-Stout for the 2nd-division championship. So far, it’s been an enjoyable ride for both teams.
“The outcome is nice but as far as accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish – no we haven’t done that,” said Stout scrumhalf Peter Wikman. “We always pride ourselves on being strong defensively and we gave up five tries in our first two games. We weren’t happy with that. We really need to communicate on defense and make our tackles.”
Stout improved that a little bit in their last game, holding Elon to a single try and getting two tries from Adam Fagerstrom. All told Fagerstrom scored five on the day as Stout beat New Hampshire 19-12, Sonoma State 28-19, and Elon 24-7.
“On offense we have been inefficient,” added Wikstrom. “We needed to swing the ball out more; rugby’s a game that uses everyone, not just one player, so we need to use our resources more than anything.”
Meanwhile, Principia beat Emory 47-5, and Lafayette 38-12 before falling to James Madison, who had lost to both Lafayette and Emory, 12-10.
Still, Principia, a small college in Elsah, Ill., had done enough to win the pool.
“We didn’t know what to expect coming into this,” said Kendall Shoemake. “We knew if we just played our game and if we lost all our games we’d still be 8th in the nation and that’s not a bad thing. So we came in here expecting to play hard and we’ve been winning.”
“Not having a lot of competition that has challenged us the last couple of years means we didn’t know where we stood,” added scrumhalf Jake Milner. “We didn’t know if we were a legit team or someone out there in the Midwest not doing anything worthy. Being here has given us some perspective about where we’re going.”
And they’ve been going well enough, and some of that certainly has to be down to coach Ward Patterson, who helmed Middlebury to multiple DII national 15s titles.
“We stuck pretty well to our game plan; we’ve been able to use our speed well,” said Shoemake. “And our defensive line has been good.”
“We want to get the ball out fast,” added Milner, who scored two tries against Lafayette. “But this has been a new experience for us. We have about 450 students so we’re not used to playing in front of big crowds.”