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Tennessee scored a try with less than 10 minutes to play to defeat South Carolina and take the East Division in the SCRC this weekend. In the West Division, Alabama outlasted Mississippi State 26-22 to finish conference play undefeated. The playoff seeds are now decided with the Volunteers and Gamecocks 1st and 2nd in the East and Alabama and Florida one and two in the West. The teams will play crossover semis and the winners will play for the SCRC championship at the ACRC Bowl Series.
Coming into the match, Rugby Today considered the Tennessee, South Carolina match to be a toss up. The teams were slated at 19 and 21 in the rankings, and if history had any indication, the match would be close. The teams spent much of the first half in a physical battle. The only points mustered in the first stanza were a penalty earned by Tennessee.
Things got a little testy and with a referee that was quick to his wallet, four yellow cards were issued on the afternoon. South Carolina finally broke through the Volunteer defense in the second half to score two tries and take a 14-3 lead. The Gamecocks controlled the pace of the game for most of the first half and early second but struggled to put in scores.
“W really didn’t have the ball for a lot of the first half and it was kind of sooner or later they were going to score,” said Tennessee President Logan McNeil.
Tennessee stormed back, however, scoring two tries to take a 17-14 lead. “I am really proud our team because we really hunkered down together and did what we needed to do and played our game and came out with a win.”
The Gamecocks refused to quit, despite being down to 13 players in the waning moments of the game. South Carolina had numbers wide but a knock-on ended its chance of stealing a victory. “We moved the ball just couldn’t put it in the end zone,” said South Coach Mark Morris. “It was two even teams and it came down to who was going to finish there at the end. They did a good job coming back on us and we couldn’t finish out the last score.”
There is a possibility that the two teams will meet again in the SCRC final but Alabama and Florida may have something to say about it. Nonetheless, Morris is excited about the possibility of seeing the Volunteers again.
“It might work out in our best bet to try to get the guys the extra motivation to win and have another crack at them,” Morris added.