The 41st Atlantic Cup was held at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Del. on Saturday, and at the end of a long day of rugby by the beach, champions were crowned in the Men’s Premier, Men’s Open, Women’s Premier, Old Boys, and 7s brackets.
In the Men’s Premier division, Wilmington qualified for the championship game after winning all three of their pool games. The defending champions, Baltimore-Chesapeake, overcame an early loss to force a deciding game with Division II Collegiate National Champions Salisbury University. The Brumbies eventually got the better of the Salisbury Sharks, running out 35-17 winners and earning the right to face the host team in the final.
The final between Wilmington and Baltimore-Chesapeake was the best game of the tournament. Both sides sought to play to their strengths, with Wilmington using an aggressive, forward-orientated approach to make the hard years, while the Brumbies moved the ball wide at every opportunity to stretch the opposing defense. The two sides traded scores for much of the game, and with 15 minutes to go, the score stood at 21 points apiece, with Wilmington benefiting from two hard-charging runs from hooker John Gitau. Wilmington appeared to have secured a victory with two late tries from Kevin Wiggins and Conor Mullarkey, but Baltimore-Chesapeake scored a try with two minutes remaining to pull within 5 points. However, stout defense from Wilmington confined the Brumbies to their own half for the remainder of the game, and Wilmington claimed the title of Atlantic Cup champions on a 31-26 scoreline.
In the Open division, the Pittsburgh Highlanders marked their debut at the Atlantic Cup by taking home the title. The Highlanders went 4-0 on the day, culminating in a victory in the championship game against Old Bay, who were a mixture of active and retired players from North Bay Rugby Club.
In the Women’s Premier division, the Brandywine Riot proved too strong for the competition, defeating Chesapeake, University of Delaware Alumni, and Wo-Ru (comprising of current and former West Chester University players), to claim the Atlantic Cup Women’s championship.
The two dominant teams in the Old Boys division were Baltimore-Chesapeake, and Old Gaelic. The teams met in the deciding encounter and Old Gaelic, the defending Atlantic Cup champions, managed to overcome the Old Brumbies to retain their title.
The Atlantic Cup also hosted its first ever 7s championship. The Kenyan Exiles qualified for the championship game with victories over collegiate squads from Drexel University, Susquehanna University, and American University. Rocky Gorge faced Drexel University, with the winner securing a place in the championship game against the Exiles. Gorge led for most of the game, but Drexel scored with the very last play of the game to secure a 26-26 tie. There was some slight confusion then about which team would play in the championship game. Rocky Gorge had a slightly better record than Drexel, but also had to forfeit an earlier game due to arriving late. Sportingly, both teams agreed that the fairest solution would be to play sudden death overtime until a winner was determined. None of the players expected that it would take 10 minutes before one team, Drexel, managed to find a winning try.
Drexel then took on the Kenyan Exiles in the 7s championship, but the exertions of the earlier games told on Drexel, and the Kenyan Exiles secured the win, becoming the inaugural Atlantic Cup 7s champions.