In the very first USA Sevens Collegiate Championship Invitational, the Utah Utes outlasted 14 other Division I teams and then stunned California Berkley 31-26 in the finals to win in sudden death overtime.
[Look below at a highlight video of pool play]
Cal, as the perennial favorites in collegiate rugby, had cut quite a path throughout the tournament. The Bears have won the National Championship a record 25 times, and this yearâ€™s team was just as impressive as years past. Until the final, the Bears had only had seven points scored against them. The Utes made it into the try zone on a regular basis Sunday afternoon though, taking advantage of rare slipups by Cal.
The Bears had no answer for Utahâ€™s Thretton Palamo, a 6â€™4â€ freshman flyhalf who captained the USA 7s team in the World Games last summer and dominated all around on Sunday. With a speed that did not match his hulking size, Palamo galloped downfield into the try zone, shaking off Cal players with ease.
However, the men in blue and gold were not going to go down easily. They came from behind on several occasions and reclaimed the lead. Keegan Englebrecht kept the Bears in the game with two tries and three conversions. When it mattered most, when Connor Ring broke through to tie up the game with no time left, Englebrecht could not convert.
The game went into overtime and the Bears were done for two and a half minutes in when Don Pati split Calâ€™s defenders to cross the goal line, giving Utah the 31-26 win.
Players on both teams should have their sights set on the 2016 Olympic Games when rugby will once again be an event. The US is the two-time defending gold medalist from the 1924 Paris Games, the last time rugby was an Olympic Sport.