An improbable season
The South Carolina Men’s Rugby Club closed out a remarkable and improbable spring 7s campaign Monday with a 3-2 record at the Collegiate Rugby 7s Championships in New Orleans.
The Gamecocks, seeded third in their pool, started the tourney in a sluggish fashion Friday by dropping a 29-6 decision to Northeastern. The loss relegated the Gamecocks to the Survivor’s Shield bracket.
It took a half for the Gamecocks to hit a stride during the second game against Fordham Saturday morning. Down 12-0, the South Carolina offense came alive in the second half and rebounded for a 19-12 win. The Gamecocks followed up with a 19-14 win over a powerful Maryland team.
The win set the table for a rematch with rival Clemson in the Shield semi-final. The Gamecocks put together a sterling first half and capitalized on several forced turnovers to take a 21-7 lead. The Tigers scored two trys in the second half to make the game competitive but ultimately surrendered to the Gamecocks 26-17, their third consecutive loss to South Carolina.
In the Shield Final, the Gamecocks were down 19-5 at the break to a strong Air Force team. South Carolina put together an inspiring rally in the second half but fell just short 26-19.
The team’s performance, coming on the heels of a 3-1 record at the USA Rugby 7s National Tournament, marked a return to the national stage for South Carolina.
Few expected much from the Gamecocks as it entered the Spring season. The young team, with only two starting seniors, persevered through a tough fall season by finishing 5-5 under first year coach John Roberts.
Embracing 7s in January, South Carolina played inconsistent rugby for the first two months of the season and stood 6-6-1 in mid-March. After spring break, South Carolina found rhythm and consistency. The team won the Classic City 7s Tournament (Athens, Georgia) and finished second to Tennessee in the Gamecock Invitational April 10.
At the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference Tournament, the Gamecocks surprised the field by going 6-0 and defeating Clemson in the championship game on April 24.
The Gamecocks close the spring with a 25-11-1 record that includes a 6-3 record in two national championship tournaments.
Coach Roberts credits the remarkable turnaround to hard work and team captain John Golden.
“John is an incredible leader and holds tremendous sway with the boys. He’s an eternal optimist and made the team believe in themselves,” said Roberts. “It’s been a joyful ride. I was particularly pleased that we could send our seniors (Golden and Grayson Toney) and our exchange student Callum Shand off on the national stage.”
Photos by Jesse Copeland