Men's Rugby: Norwich goes 2-1 in Pool Play, advances to knockout round on Saturday in USA Rugby 7s Nationals

Men's Rugby: Norwich goes 2-1 in Pool Play, advances to knockout round on Saturday in USA Rugby 7s Nationals

TUCSON, Ariz. - The Norwich University men's rugby team went 2-1 on Day 1 of the USA Rugby Division II 7s National Championships at the Kino Sports Complex. 

Norwich (21-8-3) opened the day with a 12-5 win over Montana State before dropping a 20-15 heartbreaker to East Carolina. The Cadets ended the day with a strong second-half push to down IUPUI 33-0 and clinch second place in its pool on Friday.

The Cadets now advance to the single-elimination cup tournament play on Saturday as it continues its quest for the first-ever national championship in program history. 

Junior Connor Miller (Sydney, Australia) led the Cadets' offense with four tries on the day and classmate Nathan Rolling (Taylorsville, Utah) scored three tries to bring his team-leading total to 33 in 7s play this season.

Norwich beat Montana State 12-5 with a late try from William Rambin (Fairfax, Va.) with just over a minute to go in the second half to break the 5-5 tie. Miller also added a successful conversion to give the Cadets some insurance points.

Miller opened the scoring 5:50 into the first half with a try to take a 5-0 lead that NU would hold onto going into halftime. Montana State tied the game back up at the 3:33 mark of the second half.

In the second game of the day, Norwich dropped a back and forth heartbreaker with East Carolina, 20-15 after a last-second try by the Pirates.

Rolling gave Norwich a 5-0 lead with a try near the three-minute mark of the first half. However, East Carolina dominated the rest of the first half with two unconverted tries to take a 10-5 lead into the halftime break.

Miller scored to tie the game back up after Rolling did a majority of the work with a long run down to near the ECU try line. He offloaded on his back to Miller who touched down for the easy score.

East Carolina answered right back to go up 15-10, but Miller made an impressive juke move near midfield around the final ECU defender to scamper in for the long score to tie it back up at 15-15. Miller missed the conversion from straight on with 45 seconds left in the half.

East Carolina ended up having the ball last and pushed across for the try to take a 10-5 lead and cement its claim to the No. 1 spot in the pool.

Norwich started off slow in its final pool play game of the day vs. IUPUI, struggling to generate any offense as both teams battled to a scoreless tie after seven minutes. The Cadets' offense woke up in a big way in the second half and blew the game wide open with five tries to pick up a huge 33-0 win and clinch the No. 2 spot.

The Cadets finally got on the board just 36 seconds into the second half with a powerful run by Rashawn Fraser (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) after an offload from Eli Henderson (Covington, Ga.) for the long score. 

Norwich extended the lead to 14-0 after the Cadets turned the scrum and allowed Rolling to scoop the ball up and dash in for the score. Miller added his second straight conversion after the try.

Joshua Knoll (Braintree, Mass.) scored an unconverted try at the 4:35 mark of the second half to push the lead to 19-0. Rolling added a try with a successful conversion from Miller at the 6:14 mark to make it 26-0.

Miller touched down for the final try of the day on the final play of the game and then converted his own try to cap the scoring.

Norwich earned the No. 5 seed for the single-elimination knockout tournament portion of the championship. The Cadets wil face 2017 national champion UW-Whitewater at 2:20 p.m. Eastern in the quarterfinals.