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South Carolina opened SCRC 7s play Saturday the same way it left off 15s play in the fall, with a tournament victory in Gainesville, Fla. The Gamecocks went a perfect 5-0 on the afternoon, defeating Tennessee twice en route to a cup championship in the first of four Southeastern conference tournaments.
The Gamecocks cruised through pool play with victories over Tennessee, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina knocked off Florida in the semifinals, while Tennessee shut out Alabama in the other semi to force a rematch in the final.
After falling to South Carolina in pool play, the Volunteers jumped out to a quick two-score lead in the final. “Tennessee they are always going to play us hard, and they had a little extra incentive after losing to us first thing in the morning,” said South Carolina coach Mark Morris.
Tennessee came out hitting hard, but the Gamecocks responded with two tries before halftime to even the match going into the break. South Carolina started to pull away in the second half, scoring two tries, but Tennessee refused to quit. The Volunteers scored to cut the deficit to one try and were issuing continuous pressure on the Gamecocks.
Tennessee had a chance to tie or take the lead, but a penalty for striking the opponent while trying to use a stiff arm stifled the attack. The penalty resulted in a yellow card. The Volunteers hung around and spent plenty of time inside the South Carolina 22 but stern defense from the Gamecocks kept Tennessee out. The final whistle blew with a 26-21 score in favor of South Carolina.
The Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference will feature two more tournaments prior to the SCRC Championship, and the winner of the SCRC Championship will earn a berth at the CRC in May. For the Gamecocks, they are using these tournaments to gain some valuable experience in an effort to get back to the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship.
“We reevaluated how we played last year, and the biggest problem for us was not having enough game experience going into the CRC,” said Morris. “We have been working since we finished 15s a couple of weeks ago and continue to pluck along to try and get better and better.”
Playing in the SCRC series will certainly help prepare the squad that receives the automatic qualifier to the CRC. According to Morris, the level of play is much improved from years past.
“Overall, competition across the board was a lot better for all the SEC teams, everybody seemed to step up their programs all the way down the whole conference.”
|Round Robin||Alabama||29-19||Ole Miss|
|Round Robin||South Carolina||21-10||Vanderbilt|
|Round Robin||Florida||29-10||Mississippi State|
|Round Robin||Florida B||29-17||Ole Miss|
|Round Robin||Tennessee||17-10||Ole Miss|
|Round Robin||Auburn||12-12||Mississippi State|
|Round Robin||South Carolina||20-5||Tennessee|
|Round Robin||South Carolina||41-0||Ole Miss|
|Bowl SF||Georgia||14-12||Mississippi State|
|Cup SF||South Carolina||29-12||Florida|
|Bowl Cons.||Vanderbilt||10-5||Ole Miss|
|Cup Final||South Carolina||26-21||Tennessee|