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The first-ever South Independent Rugby
Conference championships take place Saturday and Sunday in
... (Correction - this is being hosted by the Battleship Rugby
Club in Mobile, Ala.)
With the South and North crossing over against one another in the semifinals, it will be the divisions’ first opportunity to play each other.
As the South’s first seed, Florida State draws Kennesaw State. The Seminoles and Owls have met plenty in the past, as they were in the same league last season.
Florida won both games quite comfortably, but had to forfeit one after self-reporting the use of an ineligible player. That forfeit ended up costing them a chance at the postseason. However, if score lines from last year are any indication, FSU will still be in the hunt Sunday.
The other semifinal pits North champ Middle Tennessee State against Central Florida. The Golden Knights started off league play with consecutive losses, but are currently riding a six-game win streak, including a 40-13 defeat of Florida State.
UCF has a really impressive midfield attack and good size all over the field. Middle Tennessee is large in the front row, but at a size disadvantage elsewhere.
“I think we’ll be able to stabilize the scrummages. They’re probably a little bigger, overall, in the pack. I think we’ll be OK in the scrummages,” said MTSU coach Jody Hensley.
“In the backs they’ve got some good size and some speed. We’re probably faster than we are bigger, but I’ve got some good centers who are some quality centers who. hopefully with defensive pressure. will be able to handle what they’ve got in the centers.”
UCF’s center pairing of Gerhard Veit and Sean Nicholl is the heart of its attack, and much of the semifinal will hinge on how MTSU copes with it.
“We’re going to have to have a big day out of our fly half. I think we’d be fools to try to bang with them all day,” said Hensley of No. 10 Josh Tarbett.
“They’re so much bigger than we are it doesn’t make sense to go crashing up in there, so I think we need a big day out of our flyhalf using his foot, ball placement, distributing the ball and creating gaps. We’ve really got to have big defensive days in the centers.”
If Florida State and UCF reach Sunday’s final, it will be their fourth meeting this season. UCF won the first game in fall Florida Cup play, the Seminoles won the second during the first half of the SIRC season and the Golden Knights won the rubber match.