By: Jacob Veil
Men’s rugby won four out of the five matches in the 7s Conference Championship Tournament on Saturday, April 9 on the Battleground Complex’s grass field stadium. UMW finished third in the tournament and the Chesapeake Conference.
The 7s Conference Championship Tournament is made up of seven players on each team.
According to Joseph Ritter, a senior art history major and student president of the rugby team, “All the tournaments before this one have just been for seeding for this one. This is the Chesapeake Conference Finals. It’s also a national qualifier event. The winner goes into Nationals in May in New Orleans.”
With a Nationals bid on the line, the men’s 7s were focused on winning this tournament.
The rugby team is helmed by Head Coach Hendrik Van Zyl and got off to a great start, winning the first game with a score of 29-10 against North Carolina State.
Spirits were high after the first game, according to senior biology major Aidan Gallagher.
“When we get to our gameplan, we’re just coasting through them,” said Gallagher. “If we can just stick to our gameplan, we have a good chance of winning this tournament.”
In the second match, UMW beat Queens University of Charlotte 22-0.
The third match was more competitive with Mary Washington’s men’s 7s prevailing 28-19 over Virginia Tech.
UMW’s men’s 7s proceeded to the single-elimination semi-finals against Mount St. Mary’s University.
This match proved to be one of the bigger obstacles of the season. Though UMW won the first tournament of the season, Mount St. Mary’s won the two conference tournaments leading up to this one. If UMW had won the tournament, they would have had the same amount of tournament wins as Mount St. Mary’s, which would have pushed UMW to Nationals.
However, Mount St. Mary’s proved victorious 14-12 over Mary Washington with a controversial out-of-bounds call by the referee to end the match, with jeering and boos from the crowd.
“The call that we believe should have been made was a penalty try for a high tackle around the neck near the try line, which would result in an automatic seven points,” said senior applied economics major Peter Smith. “However, they didn’t award a penalty try, just a regular try, so we had to kick a conversion which, in 7s, is not a guarantee to make.”
Mount St. Mary’s went on to win in the final against Southern Virginia University on a last-second try.
UMW’s team once again faced Virginia Tech, this time for the third and fourth place match, obliterating them 36-0. With this win, the Eagles would qualify for a Nationals slot if another team is not able to attend.
“The loss takes us out of the bid for nationals, but sometimes teams cannot make it to nationals, for whatever reason, then we would be first in line,” said Van Zyl.
On April 15, UMW’s has a rematch against Mount St. Mary’s at Segra Field. While the match will not impact the team’s Nationals bid, it is a chance for the team to build up morale.
Victoria R. Percherke contributed to the reporting for this article.