2014 Collegiate Rugby Championship Fri. May 30: Pool A vs. Temple 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT (no TV or fan access) Sat. May 31: Pool A vs. Drexel 11:40 a.m. ET/8:40 a.m. PT, vs. Maryland 3:07 p.m. ET/12:07 p.m. PT
TV: NBC/NBCSN Sat. May 31: NBC 3-4:30 p.m. ET / 12-1:30 p.m. PT, NBCSN 4:30-6 p.m. ET / 1:30-3 p.m. PT Sun. June 1: NBCSN 2-4 p.m. ET / 11 a.m.-1 p.m. PT, NBC 4-6 p.m. ET / 1-3 p.m. PT
BERKELEY – The Golden Bears return to the scene of the program’s first national 7s title Friday-Sunday, May 30-June 1, at the Collegiate Rugby Championship, where California will compete in the Olympic code of rugby in PPL Park outside of Philadelphia on NBC and NBC Sports Network.
Action at the CRC will be televised in the Pacific Time zone beginning Saturday, May 31, from 12-1:30 p.m. on NBC and 1:30-3 p.m. on NBCSN, continuing Sunday, June 1, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on NBCSN and 1-3 p.m. on NBC.
In their fifth trip in five years to the five-pool, 20-team CRC since its debut in 2010, the Bears will compete in Pool A against Maryland, Temple and Drexel University, all of whom are sure to have local crowds behind them as Cal faces the Terrapins and Dragons for the first time and plays its second all-time match against the Owls.
The Bears blanked Temple last year in pool play en route to a 6-0 run through the CRC that included a 26-12 quarterfinal victory against Arizona and a 33-21 semifinal win vs. UCLA before Cal won the championship final, 19-14, over Life University.
The rest of the field at the 2014 CRC starts with Dartmouth College, the 2011 and ’12 CRC champion, followed by Notre Dame, St. Joe’s and Kutztown in Pool B; Michigan, Navy, Ohio State and Texas in Pool C; UCLA, Penn State, South Carolina and Northeastern in Pool D; and Arizona, Virginia Tech, UPenn and Life in Pool E. Pool winners advance automatically to Sunday’s championship rounds along with the top-three second-place teams, while the remaining squads will compete in consolation brackets.
The winner of the tournament receives the Pete Dawkins Trophy, named for the three-time Oxford Blue and Rhodes Scholar who also won the Heisman Trophy as a gridiron halfback for Army at West Point before a decorated military career that ended with his rank of Brigadier General.
Cal’s selected travel squad features a broad range of experience, with sophomores, juniors and seniors almost equally represented, and is notable for its absences due to injury.
Among those unavailable for selection to the 2014 CRC is senior Josh Tucker, the All-American whose midseason injury this spring also ended his collegiate 7s career after 26 appearances and 19 tries, including three scored at the 2012 and ’13 CRCs. Junior Lucas Dunne (12 appearances and three tries all-time in 7s) will have to wait for the fall season to bring his game-changing speed back onto the pitch, while other players with 7s experience who will not be able to attend include senior Jared Braun (23 appearances, seven tries) and junior Michael Bush (eight appearances, two tries).
Cal will be led by senior captain and U.S. National Team starter Seamus Kelly in his final competition in Blue and Gold to wrap up an unparalleled collegiate career that has included four previous trips to the CRC. The four-time All-American from Queens, N.Y., was the MVP of the 2013 CRC championship and has the most appearances (18) and tries (16) in Cal’s CRC history. Kelly’s 35 tries in collegiate 7s matches is also No. 1 all-time on the Bears.
Back for his third CRC is wing Andrew Battaglia, the all-time leader at Cal with 45 appearances in 7s competitions. A junior who competed for Canada in 7s at the 2011 Youth Commonwealth Games and the 2013 World University Games, Battaglia started in five of the six matches he played at the 2013 CRC, including the quarterfinal, semifinal and final.
Jake Anderson will also be making his third trip to Philadelphia and enters the event at No. 2 all-time among active Cal players with nine tries, 12 appearances and seven conversions made at the CRC. Fans at PPL Park and the national television audience in 2013 will remember Anderson from The Hurdle, which the All-American executed en route to a try over a would-be Bruins tackler in Cal’s semifinal win over UCLA. Senior Brad Harrington, a 2012 7s All-American, will return for his third CRC as well, having made nine of his 23 all-time 7s appearances at this event. Four of Harrington’s 12 tries in Cal 7s play have also come at the CRC.
Nicklas Boyer had his CRC debut in 2013, making five appearances and scoring two tries. The junior was a member of the U.S. U-20 National Team that won the Junior World Rugby Trophy championship in 2012. Unable to play in the 2013 CRC as a junior due to injury was senior Paul Bosco, but the 2012 7s All-American looks poised to return to his third CRC this year, bringing with him 24 appearances, seven tries and three conversions in career Cal 7s competition.
Three sophomores return to the CRC for their second crack at the tournament. Russell Webb started in four the five matches he played at last year’s event and scored his lone try on an impressive kick-and-chase against UCLA in the semifinal. He is the team’s all-time leading conversion kicker in 7s, with 65 made. Patrick Barrientes made four appearances last year in Cal’s CRC championship run, to which he added one of his six career tries in Cal 7s. The sophomore from Davis, Calif., has played in 16 matches in 7s so far in his collegiate career. Anthony Salaber, who entered Cal as the High School Player of the Year out of Dixon, Calif., in 2012, will also compete in his second CRC, having made two of his 19 collegiate 7s appearances at last year’s event.
Making his first trip to the CRC is All-American Alec Gletzer. His eight appearances in the fall 2013 7s season were highlighted by the final try in the Bears’ PAC 7s conference championship victory over UCLA on November 3. Senior Carl Hendrickson brings his 17 appearances and seven tries all-time in 7s to his first CRC, and rounding out the list of debutantes is Jesse Milne, a junior with 11 career appearances and nine tries in 7s play who has worked to return to full go after a midseason injury this spring.
All told, there are eight student-athletes on the travel roster who made the trip to the 2013 CRC, one more with previous CRC experience and three newcomers. While that level of experience may provide fans a modicum of reassurance that the Bears will easily transition back to 7s less than a month after the end of their 15s schedule, head coach Jack Clark was quick to point out the precarious nature of seven-a-side play.
“Sevens tournaments in general, and in particular this championship, are fun but nerve-wracking,” said head coach Jack Clark. “The format requires the teams not just to win in the pool-round matches, but to put up scoreline differentials which can offer the best seeding the second day. To be honest this isn't my favorite aspect of the format. The Sunday knockout-round matches are so competitive and short in duration, it becomes difficult to dig out of mistakes, or even a single error. It should be a thrilling yet stressful championship.”
The 7s format features seven-minute halves, three-man scrums and a wide-open style on the same-sized pitch as the 15s code of the game. The rules are otherwise the same as 15s with two notable exceptions: all conversions are taken as drop kicks and the team that scores makes the ensuing kickoff to restart play (just as in gridiron football).
Rugby 7s is the same version of the game that returns as a medal sport to the next Summer Olympics, at which Cal players helped the USA win gold at the 1920 and '24 Games. Three alumni – Colin Hawley, Blaine Scully and most recently Danny Barrett – have received U.S. National 7s Team contracts financed by the United States Olympic Committee, with Barrett having just completed the 2013 international 7s season with the national team.
In its CRC history, Cal advanced to the final of the inaugural event in 2010, losing in overtime to Utah in Columbus, Ohio. At the 2011 CRC in Philadelphia, the Bears defeated Ohio State, LSU and Penn State before falling to the Utes again in the quarterfinals. In 2012, Cal won the bronze medal, and last year the Bears won their first-ever 7s national title at the 2013 event, at which a national TV audience and welcome reception by Philadelphia as the host city solidified the CRC as a premier rugby event in the United States.