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.
Both games can be seen on the Gamecock Rugby YouTube Channel.
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.