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The Southeastern Rugby Conference was in full swing this week but ended with the traditionally strong teams winning comfortably. Last year’s conference winners South Carolina dispatched Kentucky 66-5 while runners up Alabama knocked off Ole Miss 34-7. In two other contests, Tennessee blew out Auburn 59-5 and Florida outlasted Mississippi State 55-21.
Kentucky jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Gamecocks, but it was all South Carolina from there on out. The first 15 minutes were tightly contested with the Kentucky pack asserting itself for the first part of the game.
“They played very aggressive and very hard,” said USC coach Mark Morris. “I thought we were going to be in for a long day…..Kentucky are a much improved team, better conditioned and more fluid, but I think we improved as much as they improved.”
The Gamecocks improved their ball handling from a week prior slashing their turnovers in half and managed to up there poach count from two to nine. The extended amount of possession paid dividends for South Carolina.
“The things that we wanted to work on, controlling the ball, holding onto it a little bit better and making some turnovers worked well for us today,” Morris added. “We were able to produce a lot of great ball for the backs.”
Captain and fullback Tim Hamill reaped the benefit of the great ball, netting four tries on the afternoon.
On a hot day in Florida, the Gators outlasted a feisty Mississippi State squad to win 55-21. The game started favorably for the Gators as they capitalized on a botched play to go up with an early try. Florida continued to plug away, eventually getting the lead up to 24-0 in the first half.
The Bulldogs continued to battle, scoring a try right at the halftime break and were the first to score in the second half. It was anybodies game at 24-14 but ultimately Florida’s depth proved to be too much for the Mississippi State.
“What helped us was that we had a lot of numbers,” Florida coach Ken Simmons told Rugby Today. “At the end of the day our numbers and maybe that little bit more of experience that we have, even though we have a young team, made the difference.”
Mississippi State struggled with the set piece all day. Florida’s Kevin Knox stole a large portion of Bulldog lineouts and along with a pair of sophomores led the charge. Josh Vesely was originally an experiment at number eight but the second year proved to be a formidable force on the afternoon. Steven Beckerle, who had been playing wing, was moved to outside center for the game, had three of the first half tries to pace Florida yesterday.
Both Alabama and Tennessee took care of business on the afternoon. Along with South Carolina and Florida, these four teams should all be vying for a conference title come the end of the fall semester.