Two major knee sprains and countless bruises later, the UCLA men’s rugby team finished third in the PAC Sevens Rugby Tournament this weekend.
“Honestly, with injuries in a tournament like this, you just have to push through it and make sacrifices for your teammates because you know they’d do the same for you,” said third-year team captain Grant Penney, who sprained his medial collateral ligament, a major knee ligament, on Saturday.
Penney’s injury didn’t affect the Bruins’ play, however, as they ended day one of the two-day event undefeated.
They beat Stanford, Washington State, Arizona, and Oregon State, earning them the top seed for day two.
UCLA started the second day of competition against California, and ultimately fell 17-5. Cal advanced to the semifinals with UCLA left in the running for third place.
“The goal was to win. We put ourselves in a good position after the first day. We won our pool. But in Sevens, the ball can roll either way and we ended up losing to one of the top teams in the country,” said fourth-year Tyler Pritchard.
“Sevens” means that the team plays on a team of seven rather than 15, indicating a higher level of play.
Despite its loss, UCLA stayed focused as they took on Arizona State for third place. The Bruins were in control the entire game, finishing the game with a decisive 28-20 win.
“I think we fought really hard. It was really tough playing an entire weekend but under the circumstances, with a lot of injuries, we all stepped up to the plate and we represented well,” Pritchard said.
The Bruins’ performance puts them in a position to compete in the USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship, which will take place Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 in Texas.
Although their loss prevented them from an automatic bid, the Bruins hope the strength of their performance throughout the season will be enough to earn them an at-large bid. The team will find out in a week if they advance to nationals.
“Qualifying for nationals will be a really big thing for the team,” said first-year Sebastian Sharpe.
“With a little more gym time, I think we will be a pretty unbeatable team. I think we can be the team to beat in the country.”
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