CHESTER, Pa. — A man simply identified as Dan appeared on the jumbotron Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. He was the participant, or better yet, the victim, of a halftime giveaway game, a harmless, usually forgettable PR stunt. But Dan’s experience offered more.
The game was “The good, the bad and the ugly.” Dan’s simple objective was to name five teams participating in this weekend’s Collegiate Rugby Championships. He did and had the choice of three prize packs — one good, one bad and one ugly. He chose prize pack C, which ended up being the bad. He received a black trash bag and had to collect garbage from those sitting nearby. Sorry, Dan.
The jumbotron gig mimicked the rugby witnessed during Saturday’s opening round of pool play. The teams that were supposed to be good were, in fact, good. Local schools’ failure to advance to the Cup quarterfinals constituted the bad. And some of the lopsided scores were downright ugly.
Of the 24 teams competing in the CRC, five hail from the region: Temple, Saint Joseph’s, Penn State, University of Delaware and Kutztown. Only Kutztown advanced to the Cup quarterfinals, explained below.
Teams are split into six four-team pools, playing each team in their pool once in a 7-on-7 match with seven-minute halves. In such short contests, the importance of a single score and the damage of a costly mistake are magnified.
Winners are awarded three points while losers get one. A draw results in two points for each team.
Pool winners, along with the two top-scoring second place teams, advance to the Cup quarterfinals, the most desirable landing spot out of the tournaments happening Sunday. The next best eight teams place in the Plate quarterfinals, while the bottom eight find themselves in the Bowl quarterfinals. Everyone’s a winner, except not really.
Kutztown looked like it’d be the one local school to advance to the Cup quarters. In four years of CRC participation, it's gone to the finals twice. Based on the product it put on display in Pool F, it appeared ready to get over the hump this year.
The Golden Bears used some shifty jukes to make South Carolina look silly in Game 1, walking away with a 36-0 win. Against Tennessee, it wouldn’t be a surprise if some Volunteers left with broken ankles. Dmontae Noble and Aaron Gray danced around the opponent. Indiana completely reversed the narrative, though, when it handled Kutztown, 29-19, in the evening’s penultimate battle.
The loss left the Golden Bears in second place with just seven points, but thanks to a massive point differential of 75, it was enough to qualify for the Cup quarters as the final seed.
Cal, the other Golden Bears, has won this tournament four years in a row. It didn’t land the toughest draw and coasted through Pool E. In a morning bout with Clemson, the Golden Bears allowed a couple of early tries but emerged smoothly 33-12.
Penn State appeared to pose a challenge at times but faded as well. When Cal would reverse field, the last man had enough speed to break free and sprint for a try. But when Penn State tried to swing it, it seemed as if a wall of Cal defenders met them every time. The result was a Cal win, 28-19. And as for Delaware, it didn’t even look like they belonged on the same field as Cal, who wiped out the Hens, 54-0.
St. Joe’s fared decently, but after missing the Cup quarters by just one point last year, it surely would have liked to have finished better than third in Group C. The Hawks took down Navy in their early match. They had some bright moments against Army, including a Noah Niumataiwalu rampage that took a hoard of Black Knights to take down and that eventually turned into a try a few tosses later. But St. Joe’s is a program on the rise and has a ways to go before reaching the top. As such, both losses to Army and Lindenwood came by double digits.
Penn State had respectable results as well. The Nittany Lions routed Delaware 31-0, to start. The 28-19 loss to Cal was about as good as a team can hope for against a powerhouse of Cal's magnitude. And in the evening’s last match against Clemson, the Nittany Lions impressed with a 31-7 win. Unfortunately for them, their seven points weren’t enough to place them in the Cup quarters. It’ll be the Plate for them.
Those outside of Temple’s camp saw a tough weekend coming for the Owls. The team’s been plagued by injuries this year. Still, it would’ve been tough to predict things going as poorly as they did.
Temple finished the day without notching a single point while allowing 94. By the end of their third and final defeat, the disappointment showed. Distraught players fell to their knees and held their arms above their head in disbelief as Boston College, a team that lost its first two outings of the day, scored another easy try to bring it to 24-0. Fortunately for the Owls, the clock ran dry soon thereafter to put them out of their misery.
Some of Delaware’s experience was just as hard to watch. There was the shutout at the hands of Penn State. It fell narrowly to Clemson, 20-12. But the last bout with Cal was cringeworthy, and not just because one attempt to tackle a Golden Bear ended up pulling down his shorts to briefly expose his rear end. Cal was faster and more fluid. It scored at will. The game ended at 54-0.
But Temple and Delaware weren’t the only schools to contribute to the flood of blowouts. A team was shut out 10 times Saturday. Tennessee supplied two of them, with Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and South Carolina each chipping in an empty effort as well. These teams did well to get to this point, but the results Saturday just go to show the gap between the good and the great.
• The Army-Navy football game is one of the more celebrated collegiate sporting events every year, so it was fun to see the two service academies square off in Pool C. Midshipman Torran Raby inflicted an early stiff arm that got a good reaction from the crowd. The match stayed within one-possession for its entirety. But a try from the speedy Black Knight Harrison Farrell with a little more than a minute to play sealed the deal for the Black Knights, whose postgame jubilation was the most excitement displayed all day. The rivalry is real between the two institutions.
• Life University’s captain is named Harley Davidson. Really.
• St. Mary’s owns historic success, with three national titles in 15-on-15 play. Dartmouth has reached the CRC quarters every year but one since the event began eight years ago. When the two met in the final game of Pool A, each with six points, a close contest was brewing — until the second half happened. The Gaels took a 7-7 tie at the midway point and used bad Big Green turnovers to turn it into a 26-7 drubbing.
• Life and Arkansas State, both teams expected to contend for the championship, went into its final Pool B match with two wins each. Both teams scored within the first few seconds of their initial possession. One Red Bull was handed a red card in the final minute as things got heated. Life took advantage of the man-up situation and tied the match at 19, where it would end in a tie.
• Dan came back on the jumbotron later, and it was revealed he also got some food vouchers in addition to his trash bag. Congrats, Dan.