2011 USA Rugby 7s National Championships
The end of the 2011 calendar year saw the Cal Poly Sevens squad travel to College Station Texas for the inaugural USA Rugby 7s National Championships.
The 14 players and 3 staff were met with very cold and gray conditions on the first morning of the championships. These conditions saw most teams get off to a bumpy start. Cal Poly found their feet in the 2nd half of their first round match against the University of Wisconsin and ran away with a 24-12 win. Matt Verga and Dom Ferri led the charge for the Mustangs, capitalizing on some slow defense late in the game.
Poly’s second round opponent and a tournament favorite, Life University, was always going to be the biggest obstical if the team were to progress to the Cup playoffs. The entire squad was confident they could match the known physicality and skill level of the Running Eagles, and they certainly didn’t let anyone down. Two tries a piece after thirteen and a half minutes lead to an exciting final play. A strong tackle and counter ruck by the big Poly forwards saw the ball pop out. A quick pass to Matt Verga and a five yard dash for the try line all but clinched the game and a certain first placed finish in pool B for Cal Poly. But following the successful conversion and no time left on the clock, the referee ordered one last play. Life secured possession from the restart and began their march down the field. Numerous phases later and at least another minute of additional play, Life were on Poly’s try line. After many valiant efforts defending their try line, Poly couldn’t contain the Life offense and a try was scored in the corner. That ended the physically and emotionally exhausting game that was no doubt a benchmark for the tournament.
Although utterly disappointed with the outcome of the Life match, Cal Poly knew they weren’t out of the hunt for a place in the Cup playoffs. If they could score enough tries in their final pool match against the University of Texas, a wild card place was theirs for the taking.
With attack firmly in the mind of every Poly player, it wasnt surprising to see the first try come after less than a minute of play to big seconder rower Bobby McNeal. Excellent team play and ball movement saw a string of tries come to the Mustangs and only one to UT. Final score Cal Poly 39 – Texas 5.
That dominant performance against the Long Horns was enough to clinch the highest 2nd place seeding from all pools and a wild card spot in the Cup playoffs the next day.
On the second day of competition Cal Poly drew number 1 seed Arkansas State in the Cup quarter final. Arkansas St enjoyed a number of big wins in their pool against Air Force, Arkansas University and eventual runners up Central Washington, but Dave Schaefer and his team were more than confident they had what it takes to progress to the semi finals.
Arkansas State jumped to the lead early in the first half after they capitalized on a loose ball the Mustangs tapped back at the restart. Once the Mustangs gain possession late in the half, every touch looked promising. Landis Nasser stood out and set up Poly’s first try, and then finished off the second with some strong play in the midfield by Andy Early. Scores were tied at the break. Solid defense from both teams in the second half kept the scores level for some time. With 2 minutes left on the clock Arkansas St picked up a Cal Poly pass on the fly to run 50 meters to the try line. Poly couldnt find their try line in the remaining minutes of the match, so Arkansas St held onto a 15-10 victory.
With two games left to play in the consolation Plate, a number of new faces stood up for the Mustangs. Young freshman Matt Ryan, Sophomores Dom Ferri & Jake Gersh all played very well and are certain to lead the Cal Poly Sevens charge at next seasons championships. Also special congratulations to Landis Nasser for his selection in the All Tourney Team selected by the USA Rugby All American selectors. Well Done Landis!
Cal Poly’s final position at the National Championships was 8th place out of 24 competing teams. A great effort from the guys and a tournament that will certainly hold them in good standing for all Rugby in the future.
A special thank you to all the coaches and traveling parents and family members who did a fantastic job cheering on the team.
2011 Cal Poly Sevens National Championship Squad
Standing: David Burnett (Head Coach), Dom Ferri, Andrew Early, David Schaefer (Captain), Bobby McNeal, Etuate Varea, Aaron Bordenave, Matt Ryan, Andy Doukas (Assistant Coach)
Nate Nunno, Landis Nasser, Alex Frost, Matt Verga (Vice Captain), Jake Gersh, Joe Saldana, Taylor Goodson, Paul Cappellano (Assistant Coach)