GLENDALE, Colo. -- The 2014 NSCRO Men’s Small College National Championship kicked off at Infinity Park in Glendale, CO – Rugbytown USA - on Saturday afternoon under blue skies and 70 degrees. With one of the largest crowds (over 1000) ever to attend a collegiate event at Infinity Park present...something was "in the air" at this Mile High pitch. Was it the atmosphere of the impressive setting, the screams of the fans or just the total preparation of the 4 teams that resulted in every match being an exciting one? I suspect it was a combination of all that led to great tries, sound defense, inspired play, amazing comebacks and more treated the fans to the best of small college rugby. A total of 303 points was scored in 4 matches.
The last 13 minutes of the Championship final belonged to St. John’s University and at the final whistle…they stood on top as the 2014 NSCRO National Champion with a 37-25 win over New England College. In the 3rd place match, the University of Denver pulled away late to secure a 45-31 win over Mount St. Mary's University. In Saturday's semifinals, St. John's came from behind to beat Denver 42-33, while New England College held off a strong second half comeback by Mount St. Mary's to win 54-36.
The live web streaming production at Infinity Park was first-class with outstanding match commentators in Dallen Stanford and Ray Viers supported by the use of high definition cameras and a high speed internet connection which provided the finest coverage ever seen in collegiate rugby in this country. With nearly 2600 unique streaming connections, it is estimated that well over 10,000 fans watched the NSCRO Championship during the week. In one case at a school auditorium, a large screen was used for over 100 fans in attendance.
The pathway to the NSCRO National Championship began last September and has winded its way down to the ‘best of the best’ – the top 4 small college rugby clubs in the country. With 215 colleges participating in the largest college division of any sport in the country, aiming for the top was a challenge indeed. However, 3 of last year's semifinalists found their way back to Rugbytown. Was this by chance? Not the case. It was the preparation and planning by their coaching staff and the player's dedication that has created these excellent rugby programs that have been built for success...year after year. NSCRO salutes New England College, St. John’s University and the University of Denver, for doing so. Joining this party is NSCRO newcomer Mount St. Mary’s University.
New England College (Henniker, NH), the NSCRO Northeast Region Champ, has been rebuilt from the ground up in just 3 plus years under head coach Jeremy Treece along with Rupert Leeming and Aaron Warner. NEC joined the New England RFU in 1984 but fell on hard times in 2006 and disbanded until reforming in 2011. What they’ve accomplished in just two years of league play is amazing and a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the players and coaches. In 2013, they finished 3rd in both NSCRO National 15s and 7s Championship. Lions rugby is now established and a bright future is assured.
Mount St. Mary's University (Emmitsburg, MD), the NSCRO Mid-Atlantic South Region Champ, was the Champion of the Potomac Conference in the Conference's first year in NSCRO. With a top coaching staff led by Jay Myles along with Jim Bonner and Tony Flay, they proved that the right preparation to play rugby for 80 minutes is the key to success. The University's Executive VP was in attendance and wrote to the University President the following:
"I have observed and photographed hundreds of rugby matches at various levels and do not recall being so impressed with a team. Besides being well-mannered, your team's members played with heart, passion, tenacity and exhibited excellent sportsmanship. Although the team didn't win the tournament, the old adage of "it isn't whether you win or lose but how you play the game" certainly applies. They are a group of fine, young men and as far as I am concerned, they were the winners."
St. John’s University (Collegeville, MN), the NSCRO Central Region Champ, led by coaches Dan Franklin, Tammy Cowan and Mike McElroy, have created a rugby program that develops student-athletes into solid rugby players year after year. They are only the 3rd team in the history of these Championships to repeat as Champion. Furman University did so form 2003 to 2005 and Bentley College won back to back titles in 2006 and 2007.
The University of Denver (Denver, CO), the NSCRO PacWest Region Champ, are led by coaches Allan Wilson, Stu Halsall, Jono Stephens and Joe Moli. They have built a strong foundation for a top class college program with outstanding school support and facilities. They will continue to be among the 'best of the best' for a long time to come.
All matches from Glendale's Infinity Park are available on DVD. Find the order form here.