Gamecocks Battle to 7s Victory
Gamecocks Battle to 7s Victory
The University of South Carolina came back from 21-7 to defeat Tennessee 27-21 in the final of the first tournament in the SCRC 7s series in Gainesville, Fla. Saturday.
The Gamecocks are shooting for an SCRC title and a place in the CRC invitational, and this win gives them a confidence boost if nothing else.
“For me personally I’m just glad to see us finally put some emphasis on the 7s game,” said program director Mark Morris. “With the ACC teams having a series, and the SEC teams having a series, and not just one tournament, it’s elevated play. We’re playing a series going into a championship and it just makes it a lot more competitive.”
This weekend was a test in terms of the rugby, but also the conditions, as temperatures during the final reached into the 90s.
“You could see the fatigue take its toll on the ball skills,” said Morris. “But we were well-conditioned and that helped us finish strong.”
Morris credits 7s Coach Syeve Darnell with getting USC ready to play, and certainly they handled some difficult games well.
They beat Tennessee and Ole Miss in pool play and then defeated Auburn in the quarterfinals, and a tough Florida team in the semis. The Ole Miss game ended 41-0 despite the fact that Thomas Coar was red-carded early in the game for a dump tackle.
“To score that much down to six men for most of the game was impressive,” said Darnell. “And we had to shift some players around after that and the guys adjusted well.”
Florida provided a bit of scare with two quick tries in the first half, but USC finished strong to win 29-12.
It all game down to the final, where Tennessee exploited a man advantage due to a yellow card to lead 14-7, and then scored again to lead 21-7.
“Having played shorthanded already we handled it, and once we got into the second half we scored two quick tries and finished strong,” said Darnell. “I think the work rate on our team is better than it has been. They’re working really hard on defense and doing the same off the ball on offense. That’s something that’s been slow in coming, but it is coming around.”
With a torrid second half USC scored four tries to win 27-21.
Facing often bigger opposition the Gamecocks were true to their name and were smaller, quicker, and more elusive.
Scrumhalf Tim Keown was once again a lead and freshmen Chris Harrell and Brett Deboy were scoring machines and showed a lot of skill and poise. Tim Hamill was crucial as a versatile player able to slot in almost everywhere.
“We’re playing unselfish ball,” said Morris.
The SCRC series moves on to Tuscaloosa, Ala. next week, and certainly Tennessee will want to gain some measure of revenge. The SCRC series will then move on to Tupelo, Miss. and finish with the finals at the University of Tennessee. The winner of that tournament will get an invitation to the CRC, and also to the USA Rugby championships in Denver, Colo. USC is shooting for the CRC and will not go to Denver, but it’s not clear how other teams will handle winning.
SCRC Gainesville 7s
Pool 1: Georgia 1-0-1, Auburn 0-0-2, Mississippi State 0-1-1
Pool 2: Florida 2-0, Vanderbilt 1-1 (-19), Alabama 0-2 (-38)
Pool 3: South Carolina 2-0, Tennessee 1-1 (+8), Ole Miss 0-2 (-48)
1 Auburn 12 - Mississippi State 12
2 Florida 38 - Alabama 7
3 Tennessee 5 - South Carolina 20
4 Auburn 12 - Georgia 12
5 Florida 26 - Vanderbilt 0
6 Tennessee 17 - Ole Miss 10
7 Mississippi State 17 - Georgia 21
8 Alabama 15 - Vanderbilt 22
9 South Carolina 41 - Ole Miss 0
10 #8 v #9 Alabama 29 v Ole Miss 19
11 Tennessee 17 v Auburn 0
12 South Carolina 21 v Vanderbilt 10
13 Florida 29 v Mississippi State 10
14 Georgia 0 v Alabama 22
15 Ole Miss v Florida II
16 Auburn 29 v Vanderbilt 5
17 Mississippi State 12 v Georgia 14
18 Tennessee 17 v Alabama 0
19 Florida 12 v South Carolina 29
20 Vanderbilt 10 v Mississippi State 5
Cup 3rd / 4th Place
21 Alabama 0 v Florida 20
22 Auburn 20 v Georgia 7
23 Tennessee 21 v South Carolina 27
1 South Carolina
8 Mississippi State
9 Ole Miss