By Justin Sweitzer
While most students returned home for the summer, KU men’s rugby returned home to the pitch competing in multiple tournaments this past summer, including the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship in Chester, Pennsylvania, where they fell short of their goal to win championship gold after reaching the finals the previous two years.
The Golden Bears, as well as numerous other rugby teams from universities such as UCLA, Penn State, Drexel, Notre Dame, Army, Navy and Clemson, graced the pitch at Talen Energy Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Union, for a weekend of intense rugby action.
The Golden Bears had high hopes for the CRC in 2016, as the previous two years saw KU reach the tournament final, but lose to the University of California in back-to-back years. In 2015, KU came within five points of defeating California, but failed to overcome the Cal Golden Bears for the second straight year.
KU hoped for a different result in 2016, beginning the weekend on June 4, by defeating every team within their pool: Notre Dame, Boston College and Indiana University. KU started off the tournament by defeating Notre Dame, 19-12.
In KU’s second match against Boston College, KU scored three unanswered tries in the first half, courtesy of Vetekina Malafu, Dillon Smith and Robert Stortz. Boston College attempted to muster a comeback in the second half, but fell short, leading KU to finish the match by a score of 22-10.
A tough fought battle then found the Golden Bears squeaking out a victory over Indiana University by a score of 17-12 to advance into the next day’s competition with an undefeated record.
Dartmouth College nearly knocked off KU in the quarterfinal round of the tournament, but KU scored three unanswered tries in the second half, as well as two conversions, which ultimately gave them the win with a score of 19 to 12.
However, the Golden Bears had their championship hopes extinguished by the UCLA Bruins who defeated KU, and advanced to the cup final against the Cal Golden Bears. Adding insult to injury for KU, Cal went on to win their fourth straight Collegiate Rugby Championship, defeating UCLA by a score of 31 to 7.