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Late Surge Once Again From Central Florida

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Late Surge Once Again From Central Florida

For some reason, University of Central Florida seems to start slowly these last few years, but in the end, the Golden Knights always make a move late.

They did exactly that ast year, making the SIRC final when no one really expected them to. The same is happening now. After losing the Souther INdependent Rugby Conference (South) opener to Florida International 34-19, UCF managed to edge the very tough Florida State team, and won a few easier games, to enter last weekend's rematch with FIU 6-1. This time, it was UCF that won, defeating FIU 41-13.

Head Coach Evan Haigh said the improved performance over the fall has something to do with the schedule.

"I think is more down to the structure of the season," said Haigh. "Playing 15s in September and October is really tough in Florida. We live a unique climate and face different challenges to most regions. Ultimately it takes a while to up skill and develop our systems. We have a lot of amazing athletes, but getting everyone’s varying rugby IQ and skills to work together just takes time. Hence we start slow and build out as the season goes."

Haigh said the UCF players have worked hard - which is no surprise. This team won the national D1AA title twice, and did so through hard work and physical play. This past weekend, Fullback Andres Gonzalez was excellent and also kicked really well. Israel Krewe at No. 8 has been "a turnover machine" said Haigh (meaning a good thing). 

"But every match I see new player step up and show he is understanding his role within the system," said Haigh. "That is what makes super proud of the team - their desire to want constantly improve and be genuine rugby players. After beating FIU on the weekend we now control our own destiny, however we do have two really tough road trips to finish off the season which will be a huge challenge for us."

UCF is now 7-1, just ahead of 6-2 Florida State and 6-2 Florida International. The top two make the semis against the top two North teams. Middle Tennessee State has clinched 1st in the North even though 2nd-place Kennesaw State has three games left. That's because even if MTSU loses its remaining league game and KSU runs the table with bonus points, that will only mean they are tied, and MTSU holds the tiebreaker.

A defeat of Georgia Tech by KSU will secure the other playoff spot in the North for Kennesaw State. 

In the South, everyone has two games left. With UCF only ahead of Florida State by three standings points, a loss by Central Florida can be a problem for them. The March 3 meeting between those two teams still looms large. If UCF wins that game, the door opens for FIU, which plays 3-5 South Florida and 0-7 North Florida, to move back into 2nd.