Notre Dame Wins Atlantic Coast Rugby Sevens Tourney in Greenville, SC
On February 28th, the Notre Dame men’s rugby team travelled to Greenville, South Carolina to participate in the Atlantic Coast Rugby League Sevens tournament hosted by Clemson University. The Irish won all three games in their tournament pool and advanced to the finals, where they took down Virginia Tech and claimed the program’s first major tournament win.
Coming off a disappointing loss in the Plate Final at the Las Vegas CRC preliminary tournament on February 13th, the Irish sevens men were eager to redeem themselves. Hard work and practice, says sophomore captain Luc Joseph, were the keys to the team’s success. “Our preparation – especially for this tournament, for this entire season - has been unique to say the least. Since we came back in January, we’ve had three days a week with [varsity strength coach Geoff Puls], and hard practices with Coach [David] Fee every other day – we’ve just been getting it done.”
On the new turf field of the Kroc Center in Greenville, the Irish faced off against Wake Forest in the first game of the day. Game time temperatures were in the low twenties with high winds. Behind strong team defense and two tries from sophomore captain Luc Joseph, ND made a strong statement in a shutout 26-0 win. In the second game, the Irish squared off against a tough Ohio State side. Junior wing Sean O’Leary, an elusive runner all day, was at his best and scored two key tries. Despite trailing by two in the last minute, the Irish emerged victorious with a 17-12 win.
Against Furman in the third game of the day, coach Fee changed personnel and went with a speed look, starting another wing alongside O’Leary in the backline. It was forward play, however, that secured the early lead. Freshman Jack Mitchell’s powerful running earned him two quick tries to complement another long score by Joseph. Solid defense secured the win 26-5.
The only team to emerge undefeated from pool play, ND faced Virginia Tech in an extended, 10-minutes-per-half final. Sophomore Pat McMahon logged a hat trick and made his mark as the player of the match. Said McMahon, “Going into the final I was just thinking, let’s put in two hard 10-minute halves and come out with a victory.” His strong support in the ruck and knack for securing possession in the lineout made him a force for the Irish throughout the tournament, but his scoring ability in the final pushed the team over the edge. “It’s about being in the right place at the right time,” the ever-humble McMahon said of his three tries. “You get the whole team working hard, and sometimes you get a little bit lucky and the ball comes to you right at the end.”
Joseph says he likes the team’s attitude. “Out there playing Ohio State, down in the last minute, letting Virginia Tech back in the game, you have to find a way. And the team found a way today.” The Irish hope to continue this run as they look towards the CRC sevens championships in May. Says Joseph, “We’ve got a team of guys that want to win. They’re finishers. We’ve got a good coaching staff, the guys are working hard and they’re ready to go.”