(From left to right) Bill Barron, Doug Swift, Christian Collins and John Colavita.
The Penn club rugby team wanted to prove they belonged at the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship after learning it earned an invitation to the prestigious annual tournament held at nearby PPL Park.
The Quakers accomplished that in pretty much the most dramatic way possible.
In their final match of the early-June tournament, they trailed city rival Temple by two in the final seconds, before rising senior Christian Collins took a pass from classmate and star player Billy Barron, and raced in for a five-point try (like a touchdown in football) just as time expired. The ensuing two-point conversion (analogous to an extra point) put the finishing touches on Penn’s thrilling 17-12 win in the Shield final (one of the consolation brackets).
“Trust us to leave it to the last minute to come through in the most important game we’ve played in the tournament,” laughed club president Doug Swift, a rising junior, as he came off the field, clutching the plaque.
When Collins scored, he wasn’t sure how much time was left so he ran to the center of the field to make for an easier conversion. It wasn’t until he dove on the ground and looked up at the big scoreboard that he saw 0:00 on the clock. Then came the celebration.
“At that moment, it was just like all of our hard work had paid off,” Collins said. “All of the training and the workout sessions we put in had meant something. It really proved we’re a team to contend with on this big of a stage.”
Earlier in the tournament, Penn didn’t look like much of a contender after dropping its first three games to defending champion Dartmouth, Arizona, and Wisconsin. But the Quakers responded the next day by edging Texas, 14-12, and then stunning Temple to win their consolation bracket.
“To win like that was big,” Barron said. “We conceded some late tries already in this tournament, so to win like this is a good feeling.”
Now, with almost everyone returning, the members of Penn’s ever-growing club rugby team hope to be invited to next year’s tournament—and then win even more games once they get there.
“I think we’ve shown we can play rugby,” said Swift. “It’s a program in development. We’ve come on leaps and bounds in the last few months and that progress is set to continue. We really hope we’ve done enough to be back here and play in front of the Philly fans again.”