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Florida earned its way into the Sweet 16 Sunday with a 22-14 win over Tennessee. It was the Gators’ first win over the Volunteers in years.

Florida, playing with the wind, camped out inside Tennessee’s 22 for the opening quarter of the game, and wing Josh Nicdau dotted down the game’s first try after the Gators had knocked on the door sufficiently.

In the 23rd minute, Brett Stubbs dotted down Florida’s second try, this one converted, to give the Gators a 12-0 lead.

Tennessee scored toward the end of the first half to draw within a try before intermission

When the teams flipped sides at half, Tennessee took the wind advantage and controlled the territory. The Vols were rewarded with a converted try to take a 14-12 lead, but used a lot of energy to get the lead.

“Obviously, when you play from behind it takes a lot of energy,” said Tennessee coach Marty Bradley. “We fought our way back, but we just couldn’t hold it.”

Florida regained the lead for good with a second try from Nicdau. The big Gator forwards crashed the ball hard enough to draw in extra Tennessee defenders, at which point Florida spun it wide to the wing and take a 17-14 advantage. Florida punched in one more late to seal the victory.

“It was huge. The boys are real happy about it,” said Florida coach Ken Simmons (a Tennessee grad) on winning the inaugural Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference championship. “There was just so much heart out there. Both teams wanted it so bad.”

Tennessee, who will likely receive an at-large bid to join Florida in the Knoxville, Tenn. regional, would love to meet the Vols in the playoffs.

“I’d love to play those guys again, because it was a solid match,” said Bradley. We were in that game. That game was decided in the last seven minutes today. Florida’s a damn good team, so our kids want more rugby. They felt like they could have won that game today, and they could have.”