National Small College Rugby Organization LLC: Latest News: University of Denver Wins Inaugural Cowboy Cup Qualifier

Univ of Denver - 2013 Cowboy Cup Champ
University of Denver - 2013 Cowboy Cup Champion. Photo by Michelle Stillman
Wednesday, March 27
University of Denver Wins Inaugural Cowboy Cup Qualifier

March 23-24 – Richardson, Texas

The inaugural NSCRO Cowboy Cup Qualifier was held on the campus of the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) in Richardson in overcast and thankfully dry conditions. The morning started out ominously with thunderstorms. The participating teams qualified for this playoff event as either the Champion or Runner Up in their league.

When referee Andrew Brooks blew the final whistle, the University of Denver (DU) emerged as the Cowboy Cup Champion by defeating its fellow Colorado nemesis the Colorado School of Mines 23 to 7. with a hard fought win over the University of North Florida (UNF), the USA Rugby South Champion. On Saturday in the first semifinal, host UTD Comets, the Lonestar Conference Champ faced off against Eastern Rockies RFU runner up the Pioneers of the University of Denver (DU). Both teams played hard from the outset and moved the ball up and down the field UTD staunch defense held DU from scoring until midway through the half when a quick ball from a scrum 10m out led to a try by DU’s inside center Pat Callahan. DU led 5-0. 7 minutes later, DU’s scrum turned over a UTD put in and their no. 8, Trevor Hanson, powered in for a try. The conversion by flyhalf Joe Parker was good. This gave the Pioneers a 12-0 lead which they took into the halftime break. UTD did what they had to shortly after the start of the second half to get back into the game when winger Justin Thompson found the try zone corner and when Vince Dutton made the difficult conversion, UTD was down by 5 points at 12-7. A few minutes later DU’s Joe Parker slotted a penalty kick and shortly after, second rower Casey Slattery broke a tackle to score from 10m out. With the conversion, DU took a 22-7 lead. With time running down, UTD could not regain their early momentum and DU scored twice more. Once by Callahan on a beautiful 40m movement from outside center Jake Miller to winger Charles Carlisle who Callahan and then by second rower Brent Lockhart. Final score Denver 34 – UTD 7.

In the second semifinal, Eastern Rockies RFU Champ, the Colorado School of Mines, came out of the gate fast against Lonestar Conference runner up the Rams of Angelo State University, when flanker Nick Jones scored 5 minutes into the match. Flyhalf Nate Murphy’s conversion followed a few minutes later by his own try gave mines an early lead against the Rams. Mines never let up with their hard rucking and ball control scoring 4 more tries by Sidney Mahanay, John Law, Nate Murphy and Matt Mechtly. Halftime found Mines on top 38-0. Angelo State battled hard all match long but the skillful running of outside center Aaron Troyer opened up the Rams defense in the second half leading to two tries by Troyer and one by prop Ben Bymaster. In the final 10 minutes the Rams finally found their attacking prowess and replacement winger Arlis McMullan scored a nice try and with the conversion, the match ended 57 to 7 in favor of Mines. Thus setting up a Cowboy Cup final between Mines and their nemesis DU. DU’s only league loss was to Mines in the fall.

On Sunday, the weather took a different turn with the sun shining down at various times but a strong and tricky wind was destined to influence team tactics. Unfortunately, too many injuries to an already small squad from Angelo State forced the Rams to forfeit their match to UTD.

In the final, the Pioneers started strong and put Mines defensive on their heels. An apparent try by DU was ruled as "held up" in goal by referee Andrew Brooks, but a Mines penalty at a breakdown after the ensuing scrum, Joe Parker slotted the PK attempt and gave his club an early 3-0. Despite ball control dominance and pressure from attacks inside the 22m, DU could not score. With 5 minutes left in the half, Mines won a 10k scrum and their standout center Aaron Troyer scored a try and with Murphy's conversion, Mines took a 7 to 3 halftime lead.

The second half found the Pioneers back on attack and with 10 minutes gone, flanker Brent Lockhart picked up a loose ball from a scrum to score and give his club a slim 8-7 lead. 5 minutes later, DU's no. 8 Trevor Hanson powered in from a rucked ball putting DU up 13-7. DU was consistently able to upset Mines attacks with their pressure defense and when with 10 minutes left second rower Casey Slattery strong run set up center Travis Barlock for another Pioneer try. With time running down center Jake Miller showed off his speed and put DU up 23-7 which was the final score.

At the post-final awards ceremony, Lonestar Conference Commissioner Shayne Roberson presented team and player trophies. Team trophies went to DU and Mines. The event MVP trophy was awarded to DU's center Jake Miller. The NSCRO "Heart & Soul" award of a match ball was given to a senior player who has been an inspiration to his club on and off the pitch was awarded to: UTD's Anthony "AJ" Paradowski and Mines' Nate Murphy.

NSCRO President, Steve Cohen, who attended the event, thanked Chris McAlpine and the UTD Recreation and Club Sports Department along with Tony Wagner and the UTD Men’s and Women’s Rugby Clubs for hosting an excellent event. Appreciation goes to the Lonestar Conference for funding the event and supporting small college rugby. Thanks also to referees Andrew Brooks and Pierre Levin, along with ARs Shayne Roberson, John Schief and Chris Kelly.

DU now advances to the PacWest Region Championship on April 6-7 in Glendale, CO, where they will face the Pacific Coast Cup runner up California Maritime Academy in the semifinal. Pac Cup Champ Occidental College will play Benedictine College in the other semifinal. The PacWest Regional Champion will qualify for the NSCRO Small College National Championship on April 27-28 at Infinity Park Stadium in Glendale, Colorado. Duke University (Durham, NC), New England College (Henniker, NH) and St. John's University (Collegeville, MN) have already qualified.

DU Ruck
DU on attached against Mines. Photo by Michelle Stillman