On Friday September 14th, the Notre Dame Rugby 7s team traveled to Columbus, Ohio to participate in the Ohio State 7s Invitational which also included top teams Cal Berkeley and Navy in a 4-team round robin-style tournament. After the 5-hour drive, the Irish were slated to play a tough Cal team.
The Irish 7s came out strong in their first contest. While they were on defense for the majority of the first half, they were able to keep the Golden Bears at bay. It wasn't until late in the half when a loose ball caused a breakdown in the Irish defense and Cal was able to capitalize. On the ensuing kickoff however, the Irish showed their stuff. They methodically drove the ball down the field, working the ball sideline to sideline to stretch the Cal defense. After a scrum deep in Cal territory, the Irish were able to work the ball all the way across the field and center Ryan Mitchell was able to touch the ball down in the corner. At halftime the Irish were trailing 7-5.
While the Irish were competing in the first half, fatigue began to set in and Cal showed how good they were. The Irish were unable to keep up with their speed, and the Irish lost their first game 23-5.
The next opponent for the Irish was the home team, the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Irish underestimated a tough Buckeye team. They lost their discipline on offense and defense that kept them close against Cal. The Irish were able to score a couple of tries including a long run by winger Dave "Colt" Penberthy, however it didn't prove to be enough, and they fell to the Buckeyes by a narrow margin of 12-10.
For their final match of the evening, the Irish faced a tough Navy team, who the Irish have met many times before, including the past 2 years in the CRC 7s in Philadelphia. This time the Irish would not underestimate their opponent and played to their true potential. On offense the Irish strategically moved the ball from sideline to sideline, and on defense the Irish stayed home and didn't allow the Midshipmen any breakaways. It was a close game, but the Irish were always in control. The shining moment for the Irish came as they strung together a series of passes for the only score of the game. Prop Victor Sadauskus offloaded the ball to Center Bobby Manfreda who quickly found Winger Dom Carsaro, and he was able to sprint the last 20 meters and touch the ball between the posts. The Irish would finish the day with a 7-0 victory.
With their 1-2 record on the first day, the Irish found themselves matched up against Ohio State again for the 3rd and 4th place match-up. This time the Irish would not underestimate their opponent. Although the Buckeyes were able to put a quick score up on a breakaway try, the Irish answered quickly and aggressively scoring 19 points in the first half. Tries were scored by Manfreda, Carsaro, and Penberthy. The Buckeyes would not back down, and they scored another try in the second half, bringing the score to 19-12. They continued to push, but the Irish defense held their own.
The Irish finished 2-2, in 3rd place with the second best record in the tournament. They proved themselves a tough draw against national powerhouses. The Irish definitely have the skills necessary to compete at a high level in 7s, they just need to focus on strength and conditioning in order to keep up the pace for the full 14 minutes.