(Chester, PA) Led by a brace from Will Mueller and a phenomenal showing from Madison Hughes, Dartmouth defeated Arizona 29-5 at PPL Park to claim back-to-back national titles at the 2012 USA 7s College Rugby Championship.
Kevin Clark scored first for Dartmouth. Running upfield, the wing broke a tackle from Arizona's Peter Tiberio. But Tiberio's landing was off though - the 7s Eagle was unusually slow to get back up and rebuild the defensive wall. When the ball swung back to the blindside, Clark took advantage of the weakened Tiberio's hesitance to tackle again, sidestepping him to trot into the try zone. Derek Fish hit the conversion: 7-0, just under two minutes in.
Tiberio went off with a serious injury - a broken forearm. The loss of Arizona's key playmaker demoralized the Wildcats, and it showed in their play. Meanwhile, Dartmouth continued to poach and force turnovers, as they had all tournament. A few minutes after his own score, Clark fed the ball back inside to Will Mueller for a try, with Fish converting to make it 14-0.
Soon after, Hughes put away Mueller inside the Wildcats' 22-meter for the hooker's second try of the match. Arizona's Brett Thompson, a former linebacker for the Wildcats, galloped into the try zone on the first half's final play. Even facing a steep 19-5 deficit, Arizona still looked like they were in the game as both squads entered halftime.
But the injury-depleted Wildcats couldn't find it in themselves to mount a second-half comeback. The Big Green stole possession at Arizona's scrum as prop Nate Brakeley hooked the ball back to halfback Bill Lehmann, who ran it in for an unconverted try. It was 24-5, with five minutes to play. Even playing a man down, Dartmouth's characteristic discipline kept Arizona from scoring in the final minutes. Clark Judge booted the ball into touch as time expired, and Dartmouth repeated as national champions.
Dartmouth's championship run showcased two of their great rugby talents. Leading from the sideline, head coach Alexander Magleby added another national title to his impressive resume, while 15s fullback Madison Hughes played like a superstar in the paint. Though he went scoreless in the final, the freshman All-American won plaudits for his selfless and inspired play: Hughes was tireless on defense throughout the weekend, and rarely failed to convert possession into scoring opportunities for the Big Green.
Magleby's future with Dartmouth is uncertain - based on his recent string of successes, USARFU may offer the current interim 7s head coach a permanent position. Hughes' path in the near-future is more transparent. On June 18th, the U-20 Eagle will represent the US against Tonga in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy series in Salt Lake City.
Dartmouth Big Green
Tries: Kevin Clark, Will Mueller (2), Bill Lehmann
Conversions: Derek Fish (3)
Yellow card: Paul Jarvis
Madison Hughes, Kevin Clark (Justin Ciambella), Derek Fish, Bill Lehmann, Nate Brakeley, Will Mueller (James Sharpe), Paul Jarvis © (Clark Judge.)
Reserves: Pat Flynn, Dave Turnbull.
Try: Brett Thompson