IUP Men’s Rugby Wins National Championship in New Orleans: A Breakdown of the Weekend

Posted on 6/7/22 10:10 AM

IUP Men's Rugby Team poses for championship photoOver Memorial Day weekend, the IUP Men’s Rugby team traveled to New Orleans for the 2022 May Madness Rugby 7s National Championship matches, the largest US Collegiate Rugby Tournament. The IUP Men’s Rugby team went 6-0 and paved their way to the program’s first-ever national championship.

Matches played on Saturday, May 28, were set up as pool play. IUP was in Pool A along with top teams the Citadel, the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Bentley University.

IUP’s first match vs. UMD was a hard-hitting match, where UMD tried to control possession of the ball with hard, tight running and quick recycles. IUP matched UMD’s physicality and prevailed 12-5 in a low-scoring match. Tyler Johnson and Colton Moyer scored tries, and Barry Ashway made the conversion kick.

IUP Men's Rugby Team on field of playIUP’s second match vs. Bentley University set up the team on the offensive very quickly, scoring the first points of the game in the first 18 seconds with a 0-phase try off the kickoff. IUP scored quickly and often against Bentley, with IUP prevailing 42-5 with their second win on Saturday. Tries were scored by Brian Arnold (3), Dominic Holmes, Colton Moyer, Blanton Tolbert, and the conversion kick by Barry Ashway (5/6). With his second try of this match, Brian Arnold hit a scoring record, reaching his 50th try of the year between fall 15s and 7s—a considerable accomplishment.

IUP’s third match vs. the Citadel was a rematch; IUP played the team in early spring at the Wheeling Nailer 7s Tournament, with IUP falling 5-7. However, this time, IUP would flip the result. An excellent back-and-forth contest had IUP leading 19-12 with less than a minute to play. The Citadel had a great offload and stepped to score the try with time expired just beside the posts. With the conversion kick to tie, the Citadel pushed the kick wide, missing the kick, and IUP prevailed 19-17, winning their pool 3-0 and moving forward to the quarterfinals. Tries were scored by Brian Arnold, Dominic Holmes, Colton Moyer, and a conversion kick by Barry Ashway (2/3).

Sunday, May 29, IUP Men’s Rugby moved on to the quarterfinals with their match-up against UNC Wilmington. This match will go down as one of the craziest matches in the history of the CRCs. UNCW took a big early lead, 12-0; then, right before halftime, IUP cut the lead to 12-7. 

Just after halftime, UNCW extended their lead to 19-7. Rj Beach had a tremendous individual effort to score with the next kickoff to get IUP back within one try at 19-14. This conversion kick, completed by Barry Ashway, became the dealbreaker. With 30 seconds left in the match, Dominic Holmes scored a try to give IUP their first lead in the game at 21-19. There was a ton of confusion at the final whistle as the head referee had the score knotted at 19-19, while the official scorer and assistant referees had the match at 21-19. The field manager had pushed to get overtime completed as quickly as possible, which led to a score by UNCW in OT. 

After the OT, officials and NCR had to get together and discuss the outcome and later determined, after what felt like a lifetime, that IUP had won the match in regulation, deeming that the OT period should not have been played. IUP successfully advanced to the national semifinals! Tries were scored by Dominic Holmes (2), Rj Beach, and conversion kicks by Barry Ashway (2/2) and Tyler Johnson (1/1).

IUP Men's Rugby mid-gameOn Monday, May 30, IUP Men’s Rugby moved on to the semifinals (the final four) with IUP’s first match against the University of Northern Iowa. The IUP’s Men’s Rugby team played for the top third or fourth spot nationally in this match. This marked the third national final four advancement for the IUP Men’s Rugby team. IUP had to battle hard in this match, as UNI was a dominant team all weekend with a mix of power and skill. UNI could score in the blink of an eye with defined movements and a great pace. This match went back and forth, and IUP got lazy in tackles leading to two penalty tries on the edge for high tackles. This match came down to the wire, having IUP securing the 29-26 victory. As the team did all weekend, Tyler Johnson and Blanton Tolbert came with two back-to-back tackles, forcing the ball out of bounds. The final whistle sent IUP Men’s Rugby to their first-ever national championship match. Tries were scored by Dominic Holmes (2), Barry Ashway, Brian Arnold, and Colton Moyer. Conversion kicked by Barry Ashway (2/3) and Tyler Johnson (0/2).

IUP Men’s Rugby played the championship match later Monday against Lander University. Like UNI, Lander was very dominant all weekend. IUP fell very early during the championship match, 7-0, to a quick striking Lander side. With two minutes left in the first half, IUP took a questionable call resulting in a yellow card for an intentional knock-on. IUP played the next two minutes attempting to keep the ball out of Lander’s hands so that they could move into the second half 7-0. After halftime, the players took the field with one last “don’t blink” of the season. For most of the second half, passion went back and forth. It was a very tactical attack by both sides, trying to find spots to make runs. 

Midway through the second half, Colton Moyer was able to find a nice gap, overcoming four defenders and taking the ball 50 meters for the try. During the next restart from Tyler Johnson, Moyer was able to get up in the air and win the kick. Some patient phase work led to a duo that set each other up for multiple tries on the weekend and had Moyer open space for Holmes to take it 30 meters for the go-ahead try.  After a missed conversion, IUP lead 12-7 with just over 1:20 remaining.

The next restart was crucial. Tyler Johnson had been great all weekend with high kicks that allowed teammates to contest in the air. This next one would be no different. Johnson put the kick in the perfect position to enable Ashway to track down and win the restart. Captain RJ Beach made a significant line break, causing the Lander defense to break structure. Beach offloaded to Ashway, allowing Ashway to long skip pass to Brian Arnold. Arnold, with some pace, was able to break into space, and some great hands hit Tyler Johnson. Johnson got wrapped up on the five-meter line. Still, with another excellent offload back-to-back, Johnson hit Ashway with a pass as the final horn sounded for the walk-in national championship sealing try! Tries were scored by Colton Moyer, Dominic Holmes, and Barry Ashway; Conversions were kicked by Barry Ashway (1/1), Tyler Johnson (0/1), and Dominic Holmes (0/1).

Men's Rugby Team holding championship trophy2021-22 was the fiftieth season in IUP Men’s Rugby history. The team ended the fall 15s season ranked number 6 in the nation. This spring, IUP finished the 7s season the top team in the country, bringing IUP its first-ever national championship!