Davis women complete Aggie double at College 15s National Championships
MORAGA, Calif. - In a fitting finale for Saturday's 2016 USA Rugby College 15s National Championships, University of California, Davis, scored a tie-breaking try at the full-time whistle to beat University of Virginia, 30-25, in the Women's Division I Spring Championship Final.
The men's Aggies team earned their own come-from-behind victory against Notre Dame College in the Division 1AA National Championship earlier in the day at Saint Mary's College, and supported coaches Gary Gordon and Kai Neevel's team from the stands of Saint Mary's Stadium.
"We said all season, we always wanted a challenge, and what better way to put an exclamation mark on the season than to be challenged like that," Gordon said. "To not give up, and rise to the occasion was spectacular."
Aggies sophomore Erica Hipp earned the Most Valuable Player award, scoring two tries, including the match-winner.
In a match each team considered itself undersized, both teams took advantage of pace and space on the wing early and often. Cavaliers outside center Summer Harris-Jones beat several defenders on a lateral run from 10 meters out in the second minute, and Davis full back Carli Watt broke the gain line five minutes later before offloading to wing Diana Nguyen for a burst of speed and try in the corner.
Neither tries were converted, 5-5, but Rebecca Lehman gave the Aggies the 8-5 lead in the eighth minute with a penalty goal. Virginia's Joy Jefferson kicked off her hat-trick performance in the May 7 Final in the 15th minute after Davis spilled possession at its 10, picking up the ball to round two defenders with room to run for a 10-8 lead.
Harris-Jones set up Jefferson for another race along the touch line with the defenders for the wing to extend Virginia's lead to 15-8, but Davis cut into the deficit before halftime. Hipp used Watt as a dummy to leverage space between her and her opposite number five meters from the try line, and wrong-footed Jefferson for a 15-13 Virginia lead at the break.
Kicking woes continued as Lehman missed a penalty goal four minutes into the second frame, but Jefferson kept the scoreboard ticking with her third try, fending one of two defenders from 15 meters. The lead was extended to 25-13 via Cary Wingo's 60-meter try through three defenders in the 65th minute.
Davis swung the momentum back in its favor immediately, with the forwards setting up Nguyen by winning a scrum five meters from the try line. Lehmann converted the try for a 25-20 score line.
Much like the men's team earlier in the day, the women of Davis took control and won its Championship match in the final 10 minutes. The Cavaliers conceded a penalty with ball in hand trying to get out of their 22, and Sydnee Watanabe smartly played the tap to get to the line before the defenders five minutes from time level at 25-25.
Davis' momentum was momentarily halted with a knock on the restart, but stout defensive play and clinical work in the tackle area led to Harris-Jones conceding a penalty. The Aggies used the possession to work their way to midfield, where Hipp timed her run just right to beat five defenders to the try zone, winning the Spring Championship at 30-25.