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In Tuscaloosa, Ala., South Carolina claimed its second SCRC tournament win in as many weeks. Once again the Gamecocks met Tennessee in the Cup Final, this time winning 29-17 over the Volunteers.
With nine teams competing in the competition, the field was divided into three pools. Each team played two pool matches, and then the field was reseeded with everyone making the Cup playoffs. The eight and ninth seeded teams were forced into a play in game for the right to take on the number one overall seed.
The Gamecocks dispatched both their pool opponents handily, defeating Georgia 32-0 and Vanderbilt 45-5. With the large point differential, South Carolina earned the top overall seed and met Auburn in the Cup quarterfinals. After a 41-0 win, the Gamecocks defeated LSU in the semifinals.
Tennessee finished 2-0 in pool play with an opening match victory over Auburn and a narrow 21-20 win over Mississippi State. Tennessee outlasted Florida in the quarters before eliminating Alabama in the semis by a 28-19 score line.
The Volunteers jumped on the Gamecocks early scoring two tries. South Carolina countered with a couple of their own scores but another Tennessee try left the game 17-10 at the break. The Volunteers used their big pack to drive up the middle and once they got behind the Gamecock defense, find space for their speedsters.
“We were sitting back a little bit on defense and they had a couple of breaks,” South Carolina 7s coach Steve Darnell said. “If we could get a 1v1 with our wing or our fly we are pretty confident about getting a line break. We just did not have possession we would have like in the first half to do that.”
At the break, South Carolina made several key substitutions. Zach Gorman and Mike Mahone came in as props. Both are strong defensive players and led the charge in blanking Tennessee in the second half.
“They were instrumental in the second half in shutting them out and retaining possession,” Darnell said of his props.
South Carolina scored three unanswered tries in the second half in route to a 29-17 victory for their second consecutive SCRC 7s tournament victory.
Freshman Christian Harrell has played both prop and center for the Gamecocks. “He has speed and he is very strong so he can play both positions,” Darnell added. He has scored a number of tries and played superb defense for the Gamecocks. In addition, Brian Keown at scrumhalf has been very effective at disrupting ball in the set piece and leading a potent attack.
South Carolina and Tennessee have emerged as the top two teams in the SCRC 7s series and have clinched the one and two seeds for the qualifier tournament. If things go on script, the two are on a collision course for the right to go to Philadelphia. The final stop of the SCRC 7s series, however, before the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship qualifier, will be held in Tupelo Miss. next weekend.