(Hanover, NH) Three former CPD squads - Dartmouth, Tennessee, and San Diego State - as well as 2011 champions Davenport will compete for the 2012 DI-AA National Championship at Salt Lake City's Rio Tinto Stadium, May 18th & 19th. All four emerged as victors from the Emirates USA Rugby DI-AA College Playoffs last weekend.
On Saturday, Dartmouth cruised through Shippensburg 75-5 to advance to the Sunday quarterfinals alongside Stony Brook, who edged Northeastern 24-22. Wing Eric Otoigiakhi and no. 8 Andrew Kozak built an early 12-0 lead for the Seawolves, but the Big Green roared back with three tries in fifteen minutes to make it 22-12 at half. After the whistle, Dartmouth recycled possession in Stony Brook's half for twenty more unanswered points and a 42-12 win at home.
Freshman fullback Madison Hughes proved a considerable asset to Dartmouth's offense - the Junior All-American had two assists and twelve points from the boot. The day before, he combined for eighteen points against Shippensburg before being subbed out early in the second half.
Davenport clashed against Wisconsin in the Midwest quarterfinals - both teams rolled through their Round of 16 opponents, walloping Texas 87-0 and Missouri 49-3, respectively. Wisconsin played tough defense in the first half, limiting the scoring to penalty kicks from both sides and a try from DU flanker Ryan Hargraves. Davenport held a narrow 8-6 lead at halftime, but blew up after the whistle - All-American flyhalf JP Eloff scored two tries after the whistle, while Hargraves and lock Demecus Beach dotted down as well. Badger no. 8 Andrew Hanske bulled through for Wisconsin's only try in the closing minutes, but Davenport left College Grove with a 34-11 win and their second DI-AA Final Four in two years.
In Knoxville, Tennessee defeated Maryland 47-13, while Florida State defeated in-state rival Florida 34-12 in the Round of 16. In the Southern quarterfinals, UT established an early lead with tries from centers Jack Johnstone and Nick Evans, but FSU exploited Volunteer penalties to tie 20-20 at halftime. Following a UT penalty kick, flanker Greg Kraus went over to make it 27-23 for the Seminoles' first and last lead of the match - three unanswered tries from Tennessee ended it 45-27. (Of note was the Volunteers' balanced attack - out of five tries, three came from the backrow and two from the backline.)
Finally, San Diego State took on UC Santa Barbara in Palo Alto, CA, after victories over Santa Clara (59-14) and Oregon State (37-27), respectively. SDSU took a commanding lead and never let up - UCSB wing John Gallo, who totaled 24 points in the previous day's match, was limited to two conversions and a penalty by the Aztecs. With the score at at 33-25 in the final quarter, UCSB was within a converted try of their first lead, but SDSU pulled away with late scores from center Frank Ramos (his second) and Thomas Hebard, winning 47-25.
The Aztecs' head coach, Matt Hawkins, is SDSU's third in four years. Hawkins, the most capped sevens player in Eagles history, has temporarily put his playing career on hold due to commitments to San Diego State and Serevi Rugby.
In two weeks, Davenport will take on Dartmouth at Rio Tinto, while Tennessee will challenge San Diego State in May 18th's semifinals. The winners will advance to the next day's final to determine the 2012 DI-AA National Champions.