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Kutztown Powers To CRC Championship

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Kutztown Powers To CRC Championship

Every ball was in contention. Dartmouth vs Kutztown. Alex Goff photo.

The chase has been a long one.

Kutztown University has logged some major victories. They have won the Rugby East in 15s. Snubbed by the CRC in the early years, they played the qualifier in Las Vegas and won that. They made the CRC final twice and produced Eagles.

But a national championship eluded them. This week's CRC Men's Premier Championship, one of two major men's college 7s finals this month, Kutztown finally did it. And they did it going through some supremely talented teams.

The Golden Bears opened their run with shutout wins over Maryland and Iowa State. It was easy to see how they might have been overlooked, with surprises like Cal Maritime coming along and with many eyes on Lindenwood. But KU's impressive shutouts, 31-0 and 43-0, were harbingers. Kutztown was a forced to be worried about.

Monday brought the quarterfinals and a somewhat shocking 59-14 win over Penn State. It was in that game that the power of the team started to become clear. They were big—really big. They went through you. Plenty of 7s teams on the weekend opted not to play much in the way of 7s, but Kutztown could engage tacklers and win.

Meanwhile, Dartmouth and Iona were pulling off shocking wins and surprises. With Mike Weir sending perfect passes to set free his Big Green teammates, and with Iona's physical, scrappy approach, they made the semis, too.

In that semifinal, the big question was whether Jasper Green would be on the field for Dartmouth. He had received a red card for two yellows, and after a judicial review, it was decided that he could play on Monday. That was a relief for Dartmouth and Green certainly had an effect.

In the semis vs Iona, Dartmouth trailed early but exploded in the second half to win 33-10, with William Frohlich vaulting into the air to win ball (at one time une-handed) and score, and with Green causing Iona problems and Weir always a threat to create something, Dartmouth was in to the final.

The other semifinal was full of drama. Kutztown looked in control early. Mate Kvirikashvili thundered over tacklers and so did Brock Stinson. Kekoa Kauwe was elusive and Logan Bachman strong and quick. Lindenwood got a try on a nice give-and-go between Nic Hardrict and Kyle Liebenberg that put Liebeneberg over. But still Lindenwood was down 19-5.

But in the second half they started to come back. Shiven Dukhande scored and then Evan Williams scored. Suddenly it was a one-score game. Or was it? The final whistle went but while the fans saw a 19-17 scoreline on the scoreboard, the referee quickly settled everyone down—it was tied, 19-19. Overtime.

Lindenwood had the kickoff for overtime and they wanted a perfect kick and chase. Amped up with adrenaline, flyhalf Evan Williams, who has been excellent all month, put the kick out on the full. Free kick to Kutztown, and Williams turned his back on the kick like he wanted to disavow it. It was a rare mistake, but it hurt. Kutztown tapped and ran right at Lindenwood. The Lions were penalized again, and finally KU was in at the corner. 24-19 for the Bears.

In the final, it was close again, for a while. But as they battled on the big men from Kutztown started to break through tackles. The teams traded tries, but with time winding down, Kutztown finished one off to lead 17-12.

There followed a frantic period wherein Dartmouth had a real shot to score. They forced it, though, and one more big hit foced a loose ball, and Kutztown had their win.

For the CRC, it was a fitting end, with yet another dramatic game. 

Kvirikashvili was named MVP and he was a try-scoring sensation for Kutztown, but there were other finishes of note.

Lindenwood put Iona to the sword to take 3rd. The team wanted the championship, but they smiled through the trophy ceremony, happy to have ended it with a win.

Indiana was superb in their run, taking 5th place with a 21-14 win over Wheeling. That game was punctuated by a try-saving tackle by Noah Brown, who chased down a Wheeling player who seemed on his way to scoring.

Notre Dame College defeated University of Notre Dame, led by snipey Jeff Mutuku and fractious Hugh Johnston. NDC, they will happily point out, only lost to Dartmouth over the weekend (14-0), and also beat Kutztown earlier in the season.

Air Force lost their opening match of the competition and then won four games on the trot before beating South Carolina. Yes they took 17th, but they were 4-1, as were Dartmouth, Lindenwood, Indiana, and Notre Dame College.

But Kutztown was 5-0, and no one else can say that.

Final Order of Finish
1. Kutztown
2. Dartmouth
3. Lindenwood
4. Iona
5. Indiana
6. Wheeling
7. Penn State
8. Cal Maritime
9. Notre Dame College
10. U. Notre Dame
11. Iowa State / Army
13. St. Bonaventure / AIC
15. Mount St. Mary's / Northeastern
17. Air Force
18. South Carolina
19. Virginia Tech
20. Clemson
21. Harvard / Minnesota / Maryland / Florida
25. Fordham
26. West Chester
27. Michigan
28. JMU
29. Nazareth / Iowa Central / Louisville / LSU