SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After missing out on the Cup Final at the West Coast Collegiate 7s, Cal Poly made sure to play itself into the championship match that eluded them the previous weekend.
Sacramento State hosted the first ever California State University 7s Championship Oct. 19, with 11 schools playing for a chance to win an automatic selection to the 2013 USA Rugby College 7s National Championship. The hosting Hornets did not disappoint the home crowd as they won each of their pool matches and then disposed of Chico State 24-10 to reach the Cup Finals.
The Mustangs from San Luis Obispo waited for Sacramento State in the finals after winning each of their previous three matches by a combined score of 91-20. The Championship Final proved to be the most difficult match of the day for each club.
Sacramento State took an early 5-0 lead, but Cal Poly countered with a few successful breaks off of the line and held a 12-5 advantage at half. The match continued to be a defensive tussle in the second half. Cal Poly Head Coach David Burnett was proud of his team’s performance considering the defensive mindset he has tried to instill in his team.
“A good sevens side is a very good defensive side,” said Burnett. “Not just defensive in terms of making one-one-one tackles, but puting defensive pressure on, coming up hard off the line. We certainly came into the tournament with a defensive focus about getting pressure, pushing out hard to cut down the time and space of the opponents. I think we did that well.”
The Hornets were, however, able to put a try across to shrink the lead to 12-10 following a conversion attempt that was just wide. Cal Poly’s defense would not break again, and Mark Grzanich scored his second long try of the finals to help produce a 19-10 lead following a successful conversion. The nine-point margin would hold true as Cal Poly claimed the California State University 7s title and its third consecutive appearance at the College 7s National Championship.
Playing in four qualifying tournaments in five short weeks, coach Burnett wanted to compete for a spot at Nationals while also playing some of his younger players. One of the youngsters who took advantage of his playing opportunity was the aforementioned Grzanich. Grzanich, who has only been playing rugby for a handful of weeks, believes Burnett’s preparation of the team was a key factor in the club’s performance.
“As a team we do have a lot of speed and, more importantly, with Dave as our coach he knows a tremendous amount about rugby, and I think that really helps,” said the sophomore prop. “We come into matches with a lot of intelligence and an understanding of the game.”
Cal Poly and Sacramento State will both be participating in two more qualifying tournaments this fall. With plenty of sevens rugby to be played before the National Championship, coach Burnett see room for improvement.
“We have to get game fit,” said the coach. “Just because we’ve qualified doesn’t mean we are where we want to be in terms of our style of play. We’ll be putting out our strongest team and looking to play some quality rugby and win those tournaments and come into the Nationals with the wind in our sails.”