The University of Arizona got a big victory this past weekend, edging out rivals Arizona State 16-10 in a PAC Rugby showdown.
The victory is the first in the conference for Arizona, and the Wildcats are hoping that the win, plus a good performances this coming weekend, might get them a look for the USA Rugby DI-AA playoffs. There are at-large bids to be had, and with the top three teams in PAC, Cal, Utah and UCLA, in the Varsity Cup, Arizona is hoping that, as the next team in the conference, they might get a bid.
Head Coach Dave Sitton has made his case, saying that the teams they have lost to have been highly-ranked, and even in their biggest loss, to Cal, they did something few teams have done, and scored two tries against the Bears.
“We did score those tries, which is encouraging,” said Arizona’s Craig Samoy. “Both tries came from a lot of heart. One of them was Ryan Mattias, who took a quick tap and took it 80 or so meters and we had good support to finish it out. The other one was a testament of our heart, not giving up and not getting down on ourselves.”
Coming off victories over Notre Dame and Arizona State, the Wildcats still need to improve. They struggled in the lineouts against the Sun Devils, and against Cal, said Samoy, “we got blown over in the scrums, so our set pieces need to improve. For us, it’s never a case of not enough effort. Our guys give the effort. It’s just we shoot ourselves in the foot sometimes.”
Even if Arizona doesn’t get a DI-AA bid, they will be looking ahead to the USA 7s CRC June 1-2 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. This will be the Wildcats’ fourth straight appearance at the event, and with Chris Krohn and Emil Signes helping them, they have performed well, going 11-3-1, losing to Cal in the semifinal in 2010, to Central Washington in the quarters in 2011, and the Dartmouth in the 2012 final.
“We’re excited to get back for a 4th year,” said Samoy, whose side will be without Peter Tiberio, who graduated. “I know I am definitely excited. Playing in the CRC has been my best experience college rugby. It’s two hard, intense days. The atmosphere is something you don’t see in college rugby. It’s really exciting and coming out of the tunnel, with the crowd cheering it really gets your blood pumping. Even though you’re tired, you know you want to give 100 percent for your team every time. It’s amazing.”
Arizona were 3-0 in pool play in 2011 but were beaten 5-0 by Central Washington. They followed that up with a thrilling run to the final, only to see Tiberio break his arm and Trent Fischer go down with a leg injury within seconds of each other.
“We come back with chip on our shoulder,” said Samoy. “We hope to finish it off this year.”
For more on the CRC, go to www.usasevenscrc.com.