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South Carolina and Alabama knocked off the respective top seeds in the SCRC Conference semifinals and will meet in the final tomorrow in Columbia, S.C. South Carolina easily dispatched Mississippi State, 55-7, and Alabama shocked Tennessee with a thrilling 32-27 victory in overtime.
Alabama came out firing against Tennessee and led most of the afternoon. The Crimson Tide scored four tries but were unable to convert any, leaving them with 20 points. The Volunteers continued to battle back all afternoon but were never able to take the lead. Very little separated the teams, with the score remaining 10-10 at half and 20-20 at the end of regulation. The teams both dotted down in overtime, but Alabama was able to get the final score of the game to win 32-27.
Alabama came in with a specific game plan and was able to establish it effectively. “We were concerned about their big boys in the pack, so we decided to hit close, hit close and spread wide to try to lose the big boys, and it seemed to work,” Alabama head coach Mark Seitz said.
Matt Schick, Matt Lund and Johnny Brothers all had very strong games in the pack for the Crimson Tide. “Our intent for the match was the pack play and they hit it all day long,” Seitz added. Lund took home the man-of-the-match award.
“The pack, as a whole, really dominated ball possession, and we were able to keep possession and dominate throughout the game,” Alabama Captain Matt Schick told Rugby Today.
The Crimson Tide played 120 minutes of solid rugby and only made one substitution on the afternoon. “When we practice, we run and we run and we run, and those boys were fit to play all 80 minutes and score twice in overtime,” Seitz said. Alabama will have to rally for a quick turnaround when they play South Carolina tomorrow. “I think we are ready, we just need to take care of our bodies tonight,” indicated Schick. The team will do a couple of stretching sessions and ice up its wounds this evening.
For South Carolina, the Gamecocks had a lot easier time on the afternoon. They controlled play and rolled to a 55-7 victory. “We played our basic game play, tried to keep the field spread, and our forwards basically controlled the pace of the game,” said South Carolina head coach Mark Morris. “Every time we got into trouble we did a good job of poaching the ball off of them. It was basically just ball control for us today.”
Scrumhalf Brian Keown had a great day distributing the ball between the forwards and the backs while adding two scores for the Gamecocks. Captain Zack Gorman added a couple of scores for the forwards, running some solid lines and helping South Carolina control the set piece. Combined with a solid kicking effort from the Gamecocks, the Bulldogs faced an uphill battle all afternoon. “Mississippi State played hard, they never backed down, but we had a really good game and just basically controlled it the whole time,” Morris concluded.
With the easy victory, South Carolina was able to get some of its players rested for tomorrow’s matchup with Alabama. “Speed, ball control and execution will be the difference tomorrow. We are pretty evenly matched,” Morris said.
Alabama and South Carolina met earlier this year in Columbia, with the Gamecocks taking home the 26-15 victory. However, the Alabama bus showed up late and the Gamecocks were able to jump on the Crimson Tide early. With a night of rest in South Carolina, Alabama should be ready from the get go tomorrow.