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Heart And Patience Lead Tennessee To Key Win

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Heart And Patience Lead Tennessee To Key Win

Down 20-17 Saturday against Kentucky, the University of Tennessee, after some sustained pressure, got a penalty right in front of the posts.

It was an ideal time to go for goal and tie the game, setting up a potential game-winning try or kick in the final minutes. But the Vols opted instead for the whole enchilada. They took a lineout in the corner, knowing that a tie would not bump Tennessee into the top two in the SCRC, only a win over the Wildcats would do that.

The result? Not so good. Kentucky foiled the Tennessee try-scoring attempt, cleared their lines, and got a reprieve.

Then back came Tennessee. Four minutes to go, pressure, a penalty that was, again, right in front of the posts. This time, no doubt there was no time, really, to kick a penalty and try to get back for one more shot. They had to go for the try.

And this time, slowly, ever-patient, Tennessee worked the phases. Closer and they went, and then pounded phase after phase at the Kentucky line. Lock Greg Janowick made several key carries, and finally, with time up, hooker Greg Giangiulio went over. Ben Schwartz converted that try, but that didn’t really matter. 24-20 or 22-20, Tennessee had won, improved to 4-1, and set up a rematch with Kennesaw State for the SCRC title.

“Kentucky is a really good team and we had to be really patient,” said Head Coach Marty Bradley. “These guys, they just have a lot of heart. They love to play rugby and they love being student-athletes at Tennessee, and they got it done.”

The two teams battled to a stalemate until the 22nd minute, when Kentucky took a 7-0 lead. A few minutes later it was 12-0. But slowly Tennessee got back in the game. No. 8 Patrick Beacom, who later shifted to center, powered over. That made it 12-5 at halftime, and four minutes into the second period flanker Andy Lloyd added another five for Tennessee. Schwartz converted and it was a tie.

Back came Kentucky, with a penalty, and then a try for a 20-12 lead with 30 minutes to go.

“We’ve improved over the course of the season,” said Bradley. “We shuffled some guys around and we just have worked on the job of doing the things we do well. We’ve become better at that. I was a little bit unsure how we would do this season but the guys just came together and worked really hard.”

And that all culminated in the final 20 minutes. Flanker Tory Griffin’s try made it a one-score game at 20-17, and then the drama at the end.

Back in the beginning of the season, Tennessee lost to Kennesaw State 29-19. That seemed to indicate the Vols might have trouble, but Tennessee hasn’t lost a conference game since, although they needed a very dogged defensive stand to hold off Alabama. 

Meanwhile, no team has come as close to KSU as Tennessee has. Now, if this weekend’s games go as expected, we will see an unbeaten Kennesaw State meet a team with heart and patience; a Tennessee team that somehow got by Kentucky to chase that conference championship.