DENVER – The Men’s Division II field at the 2015 USA Rugby College 7s National Championships was forced to make up the first round of knockout matches early Sunday morning, and James Madison emerged as deserving victors in the Cup Final at University of Denver.
The Dukes conceded seven points to St. Louis in the Cup Semifinal after a shutout defeat of Coast Guard in the Quarterfinal to meet Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Final.
The Warhawks had a bumpier road to the title match once they got through North Carolina-Wilmington, 40-10, in the Quarterfinal. Minnesota-Duluth, champion of the 15s code in Men’s Division II play, demolished its pool opponents Saturday by a combined score line of 119-7, but could not come back from an eight-point deficit to Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Semifinal to lose, 15-14.
The Warhawks and Dukes traded the Final’s six tries scored in the first half, but James Madison dominated the second half for a 44-20 victory. Chris Kunkel, who took on most of the kicking duties for his team throughout the weekend, scored 14 points in the Final and was awarded Most Valuable Player.
“I just really feed off my teammates,” he said after the Final. “They made the breaks and space and I just made the best of it.
“We’re trying to build a program at James Madison and this is one huge step towards it. Hopefully some high school seniors and coaches will see this and feed into our program.”
With the Cup Quarterfinals originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon postponed due to weather, the eight qualified teams kept their weekend plans in check for an early wake-up call.
“We were planning on sleeping in this morning,” Kunkel said. “But we did like getting up early and getting that first game out of the way. It was a shame with the weather getting all the games pushed back, but it worked out for the best.”
St. Louis and Notre Dame College, pool champions on day one, were paired with each other in the first match on day two. It was the closest match of the Quarterfinals at 19-14, with St. Louis victorious. The Billikens, who had defeated Wisconsin-Whitewater in pool play, lost, 36-7, to a composed James Madison side before a 35-7 defeat to the Fighting Penguins in the Third-Place Match.
As the seventh seed, Notre Dame College beat Coast Guard and North Carolina-Wilmington to hoist the Plate, while Southern Illinois and Providence will leave Colorful Colorado with the Bowl and Shield, respectively.
The 2015 Men’s Division II College 7s National Championship Final, as well as the Men’s Division I and Women’s Division title matches, will be rebroadcast on ESPNU Monday, May 25, at 9 p.m. MT.