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Alabama defeated Mississippi State 24-14 in the final of the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference 7s Championship in Knoxville, Tn Saturday. With the win, the Crimson Tide earned the SCRC automatic qualifier berth the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship May 30-31 at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
After finishing sixth in the final standings of the SCRC series, Alabama came out of nowhere to shock the field. The Crimson Tide tied the Florida before beating Auburn and Tennessee in pool play. The 2-0-1 record earned Alabama the number one spot in its pool.
“In the past tournaments we were giving in, giving in, giving up just a little bit too early,” said Alabama coach Mark Seitz. “We practiced really hard all week. It rained all week, but we still practiced and were able to work out some of those issues, just gaining our ground defensively.”
South Carolina, which had dominated the field with three tournament victories during the series, uncharacteristically lost a pool play game to Mississippi State. With the loss and an undefeated record for State, the Gamecocks finished second in pool play and met Alabama in the Cup Semis. In a nail biter, Alabama squeaked out a 22-21 victory over the Gamecocks.
In a day filled with upsets, Mississippi State defeated the second-seeded Tennessee Volunteers, 14-10, in the other Cup Semifinal. The Bulldogs defeated LSU and Georgia, as well as South Carolina, to move to 4-0 before the Cup Championship.
In the final, Alabama nosed Mississippi State 24-14 to cap off an incredible run. The Crimson Tide got a tremendous performance from Matthew Schick. The captain rallied the team together all week and spurred this impressive performance.
The speed demons out wide added a new dimension to the Alabama game that had been missing in recent weeks. James Puente and Shawn Branham scored a number of tries on the afternoon to contribute to the victory. Than Picone made some big plays at flyhalf, and Ross Depperschmidt proved a strong ball carrier in the midfield. Danny Depperschmidt and Matthew Lund were key defensively.
With the improbable run, Alabama has earned a ticket to the nationally televised CRC. The Crimson Tide is very excited at the opportunity to play on a large stage.
“With our victories in the fall we decided to proceed and try to make this attempt in the spring,” added Seitz. “To be able to make that step from the Deep South to go to something like that is really incredible.”