This weekend the boys for Claremont Colleges played in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) championship against Mount St. Mary’s College (MSMC). In a game that had a great deal of action and a close scoring line MSMC edged out Claremont with a late try that gave them the 26 to 19 final and victory. The game was streamed live so we were able to watch a great championship game.
The Lion’s finished as national runner ups (2nd out of 240 schools). Claremont’s players kept the game close and played outstanding defense at times, which included open field try saving tackles, holding up the runners, and contesting at the breakdowns. Claremont lock #5, Nick Lanker and flanker #6 Cai Glenncross both sophomores, played a excellent game defensively and with ball in hand.
We caught up with Claremont Colleges’ coach Scott Bracken this week in the aftermath of their run at a National Championship; to breakdown a bit of the game and see can Claremont return next year?
Below is our conversation with Coach Bracken of the Claremont Colleges.
The Rugby Republic (RR): Did you come into the weekend or the final with a lot of injuries and if so did that impact the game’s outcome?
Scott Bracken (SB): At this point in the season no team is 100%. We did have a few injuries, but our guys who filled in played really well. So no excused there, out guys filled in fine.
RR: Your Scrum-half Bobby Chui was on! He was at every breakdown and gave the runners clean ball. Is that how he always plays, and do you think he should be getting more recognition?
SB: Bobby is an incredible player and he is only a sophomore! Bobby always plays that well, he’s a great player. He is getting some well deserved recognition, he is part of the US Collegiate All American Pool of players, which is great for him.
RR: It seemed that MSMC had some size specifically with their pack did that pose any type of issue for you side?
SB: The size of their pack had zero impact on the outcome of the match. Our defense has been outstanding all season We made a couple of mistakes and we paid dearly for them. At this level that’s what happens when you make mistakes, but size was not a factor.
RR: Would you say that mental errors, especially when the boys where on the attack hurt your side the most? The knocks, dropped balls, penalties at the breakdown?
SB: We had penalty issues at the breakdown all weekend. I question some of the referee’s decisions; however he did not cause the key knock-ons, and missed tackles that resulted in the score line.
RR: Do you think some of their errors late were due to fatigue (back to back games), experience of the players, guys trying to do too much…?
SB: Well, probably all of the above. Back to back matches, especially championship matches are difficult and I wish we could move away from that. It affected every team though. We are a young team and this was the first championship experience most our guys had. The aforementioned errors can be attributed to lack of experience and letting the excitement get the better of us.
RR: Did you get excited when one of your props had a big run (50-60 meters) in the open field to set up the try in the second half?
SB: I was very excited. Grant made a great run. Part of our game plan is to have everyone participate in all aspects of the game. So props getting involved with the attack is part of our game plan.
RR: Will you have most the players back for next season?
SB: We are only loosing two starters, and five seniors overall. In comparison, our two competitors from the weekend are loosing 14 and 11 respectively. The bulk of our team are freshman and sophomores which is really exciting for us.
There are going to be unforeseen variables but I do believe that we should have another good run at nationals next year.
RR: So what will be the off-season focus for your team?
SB: We stress academics, so for them the important thing will be completing their final exams first. Most of our players will be traveling and participating in internships. We will need to rest and recover do some rehabilitation first. Then we will begin strength work, then conditioning and film study again for next season.
RR: Last question, who really stepped up and played their best game or really surprised you in that final?
SB: We had four starters leave the match in the first half due to injuries sustained the day before or the early part of the final. Every substitute that came onto the field made sure we did not miss a beat. They were all incredible. You ask if I was surprised? …Not at all. I knew they would perform!
Its not usually to really interview the runner ups, especially after the end of the season, but we 100% appreciate Coach Bracken’s time to break down the game a bit and share the preview of what will be a great side for the next few years in NSCRO. Thanks to Scott Bracken as always for his time.
Congrats to the boys. Finishing 2nd in the nation out of 240 is not bad at all! If you want to learn more about the Claremont Colleges rugby program, you can check out an earlier in-depth feature we did with them and Coach Bracken on our site.
All photos in this article were courtesy of Scott Fink for Scott Fink Photography. You can see more of his work by going to www.scottfink.fotomerchent.com.