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Principia Rugby wins 2013 USA Rugby 7s DII National Championship
December 3, 2013
A crowd of cheering students greeted Principia’s rugby team, the Thunder Chickens, late last Sunday to help celebrate their first USA Rugby 7s DII National Championship. Many alumni and friends from the North Carolina Principia Club came out to support the team during the two-day tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina.
During the first round-robin game, Principia defeated Emory University, a school of nearly 8,000 undergraduates, with a final score of 47–5. “This first game was a good mental marker for us,” comments Coach Ward Patterson (C'82). The second game, against Lafayette College, a DII school in Easton, Pennsylvania, with approximately 2,400 students, was more competitive, but Principia still won handily, 38–12. “Lafayette is a good team and played hard ball,” Patterson says. “They made us work hard for the victory.”
Principia’s third and final round-robin game against James Madison University, a school of 18,000 undergraduates in Harrisonburg, Virginia, was Principia’s only loss—and the opponent’s only win that day. The Thunder Chickens struggled during this game, losing 10–12. “For some reason, the oil fell out of the engine,” Patterson notes. “We were just fumbling, we couldn’t catch a ball, we couldn’t pass a ball.” Although it was a tough loss, it served as a great wake-up call, and the team remained the leader in their bracket, well positioned for the semifinal and final games on Sunday.
Putting the loss to James Madison behind them, the Thunder Chickens emerged the second day highly focused on their next match. “The team worked to eliminate fear and perform to their potential,” says Patterson. “They worked to get rid of all sense of limitation and put Christian Science into practice.” They faced Sonoma State University, a northern California school of about 8,400 undergraduates, for the semifinal match. In spite of temperatures below freezing—unusual for the area—Principia prevailed. The team gave up an early score but soon responded with three unanswered tries, going on to win 19–5.
In the championship game later that day, Principia faced the University of Wisconsin-Stout, a DIII university with roughly 8,200 undergraduates. Though they were a good team with a strong defense, Principia controlled the field from the beginning, taking an early lead. “I was a bit rattled when UW scored 12 points in a blink after we were up 22–0,” Patterson recalls. “But we pulled it out.” The Thunder Chickens defeated UW-Stout 27–12 to win the National Championship.
Sharing the victory with the greater student body, the team celebrated on the day after their return at a reception complete with speeches, cake, and expressions of gratitude. Thrilled with the championship win, Patterson commented on the caliber of the players—beyond their athletic abilities. “I don’t coach rugby, I really don’t,” he said. “I coach character education, and I use rugby to get there.” (Photo courtesy of Lisa Marunde)
Order a championship t-shirt by contacting Coach Ward Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.