Only moments after defeating the University of Utah, the tournament's defending champion, members of the Army rugby team were refueling with chewy granola bars.

Sweating onto the grass just a few yards short of the Delaware River, the Black Knights were multitasking: not only digesting the energy they'd need a few hours later against Dartmouth, but also digesting their impressive come-from-behind semifinal victory over Utah.

But in the championship match of the 2011 USA Sevens Rugby Championships, the Big Green brought more to the table in a 32-10 victory at PPL Park.

Army vs. Dartmouth was the culminating match of a two-day, 38-match tournament pitting the country's best collegiate rugby teams against one another.

Two unlikely championship contenders, one even more unlikely champion: Dartmouth.

In the four previous years, Dartmouth hadn't beaten Army.

"It means a lot to do it on this stage," said Dartmouth senior Chris Downer, who stars alongside his brother, Nick.

The Big Green started this tournament on Saturday with a surprising win over Utah, which seemed to set them in motion toward Sunday's final.

And Army, despite downing the favorite in what was the day's most compelling match, could never quite get its feet under them in losing the final.

The Big Green marched through Sunday's win-or-you're-gone matches with victories over Boston College (36-0), Penn State (12-7), and Central Washington (24-12).

Dartmouth coach Alexander Magleby admitted his team was nervous ("That's the point of competition, right?"), but saw something in his guys this weekend that made him a believer.

"They worked their tails off," Magleby said. "We're tickled."

The championship final, unlike the other 37 matches, consisted of 10-minute halves.

Dartmouth dominated the entire 20 minutes and became the second champion of this event, which was won last year by Utah over California.

So what happened to those Golden Bears, who just one day earlier had rolled over opponents like a downhill semi and are essentially the Yankees of college rugby?

Utah blasted them in the quarterfinals, 21-5.

What happened to Utah?

Army shocked the Utes, 12-7, scoring 12 straight points in the second half of a match that featured big hits and big runs.

"We knew they were coming off of a big win against Cal, but it was us sticking to our guns," Army flyhalf Dave Geib said of the team's big semifinal victory. "At the end of it, we just looked to the brothers on the right and left of us. And that's kind of what got us through, like it always does."

Added Geib: "But sevens, what's great about the game is that anybody can win at any time. We put it together in that minute and that moment."

And Dartmouth put it together a few hours later.

At the tournament's final whistle, all the members of the Big Green sprinted onto the grass, reveling in their championship.

Twenty minutes later, with the stands at PPL Park empty, they were still there.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at kfagan@phillynews.com.
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