Tournament Most Valuable Player Mate Kvirikashvili registered his second game-winning try of the day with less than two minutes remaining as Steven Doyling and his Kutztown University Men's Rugby teammates capped off a dream spring sevens season with a 17-12 victory over Dartmouth in the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) Men's Premier National Cup Final to claim the first National Championship in program history.
Conditions inside the Gold Mine On Airline stadium, home of Major League Rugby's New Orleans Gold, had been sweltering and muggy throughout the weekend as Kutztown steamrolled its way to the final by outscoring its four opponents a collective 157-31 and eliminated three-time defending champion Lindenwood, 24-19, in an overtime thriller in the semifinals.
Rain started to fall almost immediately after the opening whistle. Nothing like throwing a wrench into the biggest game of the year.
Kutztown handled it well, though, Kvirikashvili using a burst of speed along the near sideline, running through two tackles and touching down for a try in the second minute to give the Bears an early 5-0 lead.
Dartmouth took possession off the restart, but working back on its own side, the Big Green threw the ball away. It was picked up by Cameron Thurtell, who flipped it to Logan Bachman as the Maroon and Gold moved it ever closer to the tryline. Bachman would dive in for the try in the fourth minute and Thorne O'Connell was true on the conversion as the Golden Bears extended their advantage to 12-0.
Dartmouth was not going to go quietly with everything on the line, however. The Big Green, the No. 3 seed out of the West Region of the 32-team Men's Premier bracket, had already eliminated No. 2 seed Notre Dame College in the second round and top-seeded Indiana in the quarterfinals on their run to the title match.
Jasper Green diced through the Golden Bears, going the length of the field for a Dartmouth try in the fifth minute. The conversion from Mike Weir was good pulling the Big Green within 12-7.
Dartmouth forced a turnover deep in Kutztown territory soon after the restart and Jaime Chuidian was the recipient of a nice off load, finishing the try to knot the score at 12 as the teams went to the break.
The second half proved to be an offensive struggle, each possession carrying more urgency than the last.
Dartmouth gained possession first and worked inside Kutztown's 22 on a strong run from William Frohlich, Kvirikashvili's wonderful ankle tackle surely saving a try. The Big Green continued to attack, but a passing miscue was smothered by O'Connell.
Kutztown's control of the ball was short-lived as Dartmouth took it back on a throw-in in the ninth minute.
A penalty by Dartmouth and concurrent yellow card to try-scorer Chuidian put the ball back in Kutztown's hands as the game approached the 10-minute mark, but the Golden Bears couldn't capitalize.
In fact, the man advantage was wiped out following a penalty just a minute later when the referee sent KU's Kekoa Kauwe (Orem, Utah/Pleasant Grove) off for a yellow, resulting in an extended period of 6-on-6.
During 6-on-6 play, Dartmouth turned it over, Aidan Smith quickly off loaded to Kvirikashvili and the uber-talented sophomore from Georgia took it the rest of the way, putting it down at the right side of the try zone to put Kutztown back in front 17-12 with less than two minutes to go.