DU Club Rugby celebrates its Cowboy Cup Championship on April 3 of the 2016 season. Photo courtesy of DU Club Rugby Facebook

Over the weekend, DU’s men’s club rugby team traveled to New Mexico to compete for the Cowboy Cup Championship on April 2 and 3. The Cowboy Cup is given to the winner of the region every year. DU’s conference includes other western universities, such as New Mexico Highlands University, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University-Pueblo.

After defeating New Mexico Highlands University with a final score of 34-24, the Pioneers secured their third Cowboy Cup in the last four years. The team was perfect this season in conference play, with a record of 6-0. This championship game determined matchups for the Pacific West Championship, which took place this past weekend. DU’s victory set them up to face Claremont Colleges, while New Mexico Highlands also advanced and will be competing against the California Maritime Academy.

On April 14, the team left for California. The tournament was played in Vallejo, California at the California Maritime Academy. DU’s game against Claremont Colleges was on April 16.

Day one of the Pacific West Championship was equivalent to the Sweet Sixteen round. Du’s team was 13-0 before the first round in California.

Sophomore Zach Ziegler (Broomfield, Colorado) has been an integral part of the team in his second season, and this held true in California. Unfortunately, the team could not hang on against a fast and strong Claremont team.

“We held with them until halftime, but then things started breaking down. Fitness levels started to expose themselves in the second half. They just had a better structure than we did and they seemed to be better with the players that they had. We had some stupid turnovers and penalties where we gave the ball away when we shouldn’t have,” said Ziegler. “I think that the California schools played at a much faster pace than we did. Their style of game play isn’t something we have seen a lot in our frontier league. We just weren’t used to it.”

The final score of the DU vs. Claremont game was 45-15. Claremont ended up winning the second day against New Mexico Highlands University and they advanced to the Final Four tournament, which is scheduled to take place in Glendale, Colorado on May 1.

On the second day of the Pacific West Championship, DU battled California Maritime Academy, where they lost with a final score of 44-15. However, members of the team that did not typically have a chance to play often this season were given the opportunity to participate. DU finished their season with a record of 13-2. 

The season is not completely over, though. Ziegler, senior captain Jake Murphy (San Francisco, California) and sophomore Brandon Wright (Austin, Texas) were nominated for the National Small College Rugby Organization All-American honors by their coaches. These results are still pending.

Murphy still has a very positive outlook on the season, despite the difficult losses in California.

“Although we didn’t have the outcome we hoped, this season was a great step for the club.  After an early playoff exit last year, we raised the bar. Now it is up to the returning players to continue striving for improvement. I have a lot of great memories from this season that I’ll remember for years to come,” he said.