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There were three high-profile friendlies Saturday – a rivalry game and two inter-conference preseason duels.
The rivalry match saw Florida travel to Tallahassee and down Florida State. The final score, 28-5 in favor of the Gators, isn’t indicative of the closeness of the game, as the Seminoles led 5-3 at halftime.
“We had a lot of penalties. It was such a competitive game, the passion was so high that they just kind of lost control, tried to do too much,” said Florida coach Ken Simmons of his players.
“The dew settled in and made the ball really slippery for both teams, so there were a lot of mishandled balls, a lot of knock-ons. We felt like we were dominating in the scrums, felt like we could have scored a bunch that we didn’t do, so it was just penalties, trying to pass when we shouldn’t be passing. We just weren’t ready.”
Florida outscored FSU 25-0 in the second half, with two tries coming from flanker Mike Breske. He started the game at outside center, but moved to the pack when Matias Groetaers, a long-time contributor for Gators now in his last semester, came off the bench.
“He’d been injured so we didn’t start him,” said Simmons of Groetaers. “We brought him in at outside center in the second half. That helped us make sure we were moving the ball a little bit more to the outside like we wanted to, to try and get our wings and fullback a chance to score.”
With the win, Florida improves to 3-0 in Florida Cup play – the colleges in Florida play a friendly inter-divisional competition each fall. The Seminoles drop to 1-2.
Florida’s new conference-mate Tennessee hosted Virginia Tech, marking the Vols third game against an Atlantic Coast opponent this fall. Tennessee improved to 2-1 against the ACRL with a 30-7 defeat of the Hokies.
Tennessee got out of the gate quickly and raced to a 27-7 halftime advantage. Virginia Tech’s defense was stifling early, but once the Vols caught up to the emotion of the Hokies, they jumped ahead on the scoreboard.
“Virginia Tech is very strong at the tackle, they’re very strong at the breakdown, and we had to work to defend because we turned the ball over,” said UT coach Marty Bradley, “but once we got that sorted out we got into a good pattern of play.”
A third SEC Rugby team was in action Saturday – LSU, kicking its season off against Texas State. The Tigers lost a lot due to graduation in the spring, so plenty of new starters were tasked with their first assignment, which ended in a 23-10 loss.
Adding to the Tigers’ troubles was the transition from 7s to 15s. Tennessee struggled similarly in its first couple of preseason games.
“To be honest with you, some of their play looked like their backs had not made the transition from 7s to 15s,” said Texas State coach Scot Courtney of LSU. “They made a few decisions rather than attacking, almost stopping or backing up, waiting for it to develop like you would in 7s.”
The Renegades took advantage.
“I think we attacked, or at least kept pressure, on them more than the other way around, so I think we put them in position to make some mistakes we kind of turned it to our advantage for whatever reason.”
Texas State begins Southwest Conference league play Saturday at home against Rice.