Cal defeated Life in a thrilling final at PPL Park Sunday to win the Collegiate Rugby Championships 7s tournament.
Behind a superb overall performance from captain Seamus Kelly and thundering prop Danny Barrett, Cal took an early lead, and then had to hold off a furious comeback by Life, eventually prevailing 19-14.
This game was a matchup of two of the more physical teams in the tournament, and so pressure defense would have a major impact.
That's how Cal got their opening try. Cal pinned Life in their 22 and forced a knock-on just by coming up fast. From the scrum Seamus Kelly skated past a few defenders, probed a gap and then spun it wide where Danny Barrett was only to happy to run in. Russell Webb slotted the conversion and Cal led 7-0.
Life came awfully close to tying it up quickly as Cam Dolan, Jake Anderson and Joe Cowley combined to send Cowley down the sideline. He was caught and taken into touch, though, and that also defined much of the first half, as Cal manned up on the tackles more than any other Life opponent.
That defense would force another turnover at midfield - again a slightly shaken Life team let the ball hit the deck. Barrett was on it, and from there the Bears worked it patiently down the field. Life was outnumbered wide and tried to blitz Cal into a mistake - no such luck and Russell Webb popped to Barrett for the prop's second try in the final.
Webb was good on the kick and Cal led 14-0 at halftime.
Cal now knew they could challenge the Life defense, and they did, using the scampering Anthony Battaglia and Webb to zip into the small gaps. Always in support was Brad Harrington. That all worked to keep the ball in Cal hands for a good 90 seconds before Kelly took the ball on the wing.
He stiff-armed Joe Cowley and took off, finally scoring a try rather then setting it up. The kick missed, but Cal's 19-0 lead was a commanding one.
Life finally got the ball and after a penalty sent Paris Hollis up the sideline. The big prop steamrolled a Cal tackler and after a penalty was quick-tapped, Dolan went to the corner before offloading to Colton Cariaga for a brilliant try. Kick was good from Cowley and Life still had a shot at 19-7, but the time was dwindling.
More of the same then, after Cal over-threw a lineout. They sent it wide to Hollis, who thundered into two Bears. Then a quick recycle to Dolan on the opposite wing. He broke free and then fed Cowley for the score. Cowley slotted the difficult kick, and suddenly it was 19-14 with time almost up.
Cal needed to do one thing they are very good at - control the ball.
Cal won the restart, as the time went to zero. The hooter hadn't sounded, though as players yelled to Webb to kick it out. The hooter sounded as the ball landed in the stands. It was a risky play, and certtainly the lineout could have been awarded, but the referee played the sound Cal wanted to hear, and for the first time, Cal were CRC champions.
Tries: Barrett 2, Kelly
Convs: Webb 2
Tries: Cariaga, Cowley
Convs: Cowley 2