South Carolina dropped a 27-12 decision to defending D1AA national champion Tennessee in Knoxville Saturday in a game that was closer than the score would indicate.
The Volunteers pressured the Gamecocks throughout much of the first half and built a 17-0 halftime lead. The Gamecocks pressed Tennessee a few times but were undone by penalties and handling errors.
In the second half, South Carolina found some offensive rhythm and managed to trim the Tennessee lead to 20-12 before the Volunteers converted a turnover deep in Gamecock territory into a try with five minutes remaining.
Last fall, the Gamecocks lost 45-0 to Tennessee.
Saturday’s contest was a preview of the Southeastern Conference Championship game to be held Nov. 12.
“Tennessee is a really sound and fundamental team. They don’t beat themselves,” said Coach John Roberts, who took over the Gamecock program one-year ago. “Unlike last year, the game was competitive. And our team is taking a lot of positives from this loss because we know we are closing the gap.”
Like the A-side game, the B-side contest was entertaining and closely contested. The Vols won 29-12 by pulling away late after the Gamecocks inserted a bevy of first-year players.
Roberts said South Carolina will be making some adjustments and fine-tuning to prepare for the rematch. Last Spring, the underdog Gamecocks shocked the collegiate rugby community by capturing the SCRC 7s Championship. In just 11 days, they hope to turn the trick again in 15s.
Gamecocks advance to SCRC Championship game
While the fall regular season has two games remaining, South Carolina has punched its ticket to the Southeastern Rugby Conference (SCRC) championship game against Tennessee on November 12.
With wins over East Division opponents Clemson and Georgia, the Gamecocks assume the top-seeded post in that competitive division. While Kentucky defeated all of their East Division opponents, the Wildcats opted out of post season play earlier this year and will not be participating in the conference playoffs.
Tennessee, meanwhile, easily defeated their West Division opponents: Alabama, LSU and Kennesaw State.
So, this weekend’s game against Tennessee in Knoxville (noon kick-off at 3620 Southerland Ave. in Knoxville) will be a preview of the SCRC championship game. The location of the SCRC championship tournament, which will also feature a contest between Division IAA teams Clemson and Alabama, has not been determined.
The winner of the SCRC championship game will automatically advance to the National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) national championship tournament. The SCRC runner-up may also receive an at-large bid, but we don’t know yet.
Nevertheless, advancing to the SCRC 15s championship is a huge accomplishment for the Gamecocks (3-1). The last time South Carolina made it this far was in 2015 when the Gamecocks lost to Tennessee 23-22. South Carolina captured the SCRC 7s championship last spring and has been fighting to return to national relevance. The team is ranked #5 among NCR D1AA teams and is ranked #32 among all D1 programs.
“Through recruiting, game preparation and alumni engagement we have been working to raise our profile and organization,” said Head Coach John Roberts. “Advancing to the SCRC 15s championship game is validating, and it is a result of the hard work we have done on these three fronts.”
In addition to the two games against Tennessee, the Gamecocks also host Kennesaw State November 5.
South Carolina earns 12-10 victory over Clemson
South Carolina and Clemson delighted fans with a thrilling contest Saturday that ended in a historic 12-10 victory for the Gamecocks.
The game – a gut-wrenching affair – was highlighted by superb defense, gritty play, and a do-or-die spirit that was exhibited by both squads. It was also a contest that held national relevance as the Tigers entered the contest ranked third while South Carolina was ranked eight.
The Gamecocks pressured the Tigers early but could not find the try zone. At the 20-minute mark the Tigers caught South Carolina napping after a penalty, spun the ball wide and dashed 80-meters for the try.
South Carolina used some nifty kicking to keep the Tigers on their back foot for the remainder of the half but could not break through Clemson’s line. Three times the Gamecock pressured inside the Clemson 10-meter line but were undone by poor communication and misplays.
In the second half, the Gamecocks found some offensive rhythm. Freshman wing Nick DuBois found space on the Tigers’ perimeter and scored a try that put the Gamecocks up 7-5 after the successful conversion by Kevin Lacy.
Another freshman, outside center Grant Ruhlen, intercepted a wayward Clemson backline pass five minutes later and rushed 25 meters for South Carolina’s second try.
The next 20 minutes was a slugfest. The Gamecocks fought desperately to put the Tigers away. But Clemson, which had not lost a 15s contest to South Carolina in more than a decade, wrestled momentum to their side by scoring a try in the corner with ten minutes remaining. The difficult conversion fell short.
Now South Carolina was on their back foot. The Tigers pressured the Gamecocks during the final desperate minutes. But the Gamecock defense would not bend.
South Carolina Head Coach John Roberts said solid defense and timely kicking proved the difference.
“Coming into the contest Clemson had outscored their opponents 110-5,” he said. “Our whole game plan was to charge their backline and forwards to prevent them from generating go-forward ball. Our scrum half (Jack Van Vliet) and flyhalf (Jack Chelly) also did a fine job with their boot.”
It does not get any easier for the Gamecocks (3-0) Saturday as they host undefeated Kentucky.
(9.19.22) Gamecocks survive Georgia 25-22
South Carolina defeated a talented and resilient Georgia side 25-22 Saturday in Athens. The Gamecock B-side also won 28-21. Playing without their starting scrumhalf and flyhalf, the Gamecocks struggled at times to take advantage of overloads, while the forward pack dominated set pieces. Trailing 19-17 midway through the second half, two clutch penalty kicks by fullback Kevin Lacy sealed the win for South Carolina.
South Carolina moves to 2-0 while the Bulldogs drop to 0-2 after dropping a decision to Lander University, a varsity side.
“Winning an away match in our conference is always tough,” said South Carolina Coach John Roberts. “Georgia has a very athletic side, and they hampered our perimeter attack. We did not play our best rugby today but persevered by besting a quality opponent.”
Unfortunately, South Carolina lost center Jack McGoldrick (broken fibula) for the season. Eight-man and captain Grant Howard also left the game with a concussion but is expected to return.
The Gamecock B-side fairly dominated the Bulldogs for most of that contest building 28-7 lead before Georgia scored three consecutive trys late in contest after several first-year players joined the game.
“Our second side moved the ball really well and controlled the game,” said Roberts. “This illustrates our growing strength as an organization.” The Gamecocks are idle Saturday. The team’s b-side will take Belmont Abbey (a varsity program) at home September 30.
Big Win in Charleston
South Carolina traveled to Charleston play against The Citadel. After moving the game to Sunday due to rain they were able to pull out the win with a score of 48-7.
All of our teams played great in Charleston and the rain did not stop them from dominating their matches.