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Mount Gets Defensive in Ride to CRC Title

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Mount Gets Defensive in Ride to CRC Title

Mount St. Mary's vs Indiana in the final. Tyler Kraft photo.

Did Mount St. Mary's finally put to bed the idea that you have to play 7s for months to be successful?

It certainly seemed that way. MSM played less than three tournaments (one tournament, one less-serious warmup tournament, and another called midway through on account of weather) and yet managed to win the CRC D1 Premier cup. How did they manage it? They managed it in part because 15s is still rugby, and good rugby wins.

"To be quite honest our players just really came together," said Mount St. Mary's Director of Rugby Jay Myles. "We only played eight 7s matches this spring. Our main focus was to focus on 15s and get defensive the foundation put down. And when we moved to 7s our connections were good, our tackling was good. I could not be more proud of our defense and our one-up tackles."

Mount won the tournament with the following results: 41-0 over Michigan, 21-7 over Adrian, 7-5 over Wheeling, 22-5 over Belmont Abbey, and 19-5 over Indiana in the final. Five games, 22 points allowed. That defense certainly got them into the semifinals as they needed all of it to edge a very, very dangerous Wheeling team.

And it was during 15s practice that they perfect it and ensured this young group was playing as a team.

"We had such an amazing freshman class it took fall to get their feet under them," said Myles. "I think it was difficult during the fall but the players just embraced it."

The MSM coaching staff, especially Kyle Powers and Chet Rockwood, was huge in making that happen, taking one-on-one meetings with players and nurturing the group as a whole. Then when it was time to concentrate on 7s, alumnus Mike Williams came in for about two-and-a-half weeks to address the finer points of 7s rugby.

"Playing 7s and then a 15s game and then more 7s is tough, but switching late and concentrating on 7s worked for us," said Myles. "The coaches gave the players the framework, and the players just embraced it. Every warmup we did at CRC there was energy and excitement. They were joking and laughing and enjoying themselves."

There wasn't tournament fatigue. Certainly they were fit and eager and hungry and looked quick on their feet. Chris Cleland, a sophomore, was named tournament MVP as he picked up where he left off with Doylestown and Berks in Pennsylvania. He is not big, but he plays big, defends bravely, and has outstanding footwork.

Jude Fangmeye, who scored all three MSM tries in the final, was also brilliant. Fangmeyer's older brothers captained at Notre Dame and Penn State, so he is part of a rugby family. He played his high school rugby at Good Counsel, and "we get just amazing young men to come out of there," said Myles. Not only did he score tries, but Fangmeyer was outstanding defensively as well.

Add in Will Chevalier (Neuqua HS, Illinois), who scored Indiana's lone try in the final, and you have the major stars and all the tries in the final coming from locally-trained student-athletes.

For Mount St. Mary's then, yes, this is a signal that you can win major 7s tournaments without playing 7s for months. But it's also a signal that MSM could well be a force to watch of the coming years.  

Myles got calls from two university vice presidents and the full support of university president Timothy Trainor, as well. Maybe that's the big win.