Gamecocks win SCRC 7s Tournament
Few expected much from the University of South Carolina in the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference (SCRC) Sevens Championship Tournament.
The Gamecocks, which owned a 13-8-1 Spring record, entered the 12-team field as a fifth seed. But South Carolina had shown steady improvement since mid-March. And the squad was coming off a confidence-building 19-5 victory over a powerful Clemson squad on April 11, the program’s first victory over their rival in five years.
“Entering the tournament (hosted by Middle Tennessee State University), few of the teams, save Clemson, thought we were much of a threat,” said South Carolina Coach John Roberts. “After all, we had lost two games each to Kentucky and Tennessee. But our guys had quiet confidence. And we saw ourselves as the team to beat.”
South Carolina used a smothering defense to dispatch top-seeded Tennessee 17-5 Saturday. The Gamecocks followed up with lopsided wins over Ole Miss (57-5) and Georgia (38-0).
After Saturday’s contests, the Gamecocks advanced to the SCRC final four with traditional powers Clemson, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Sunday’s semi-final against an athletic Kentucky squad was a thrilling back and forth affair with several lead changes. When the Wildcats scored a try and successful conversion with a minute remaining to knot the contest 12-12, the battle seemed destined for extra time.
After squandering possession on a turnover following the kick, the Gamecocks’ pressing defense forced a wayward Wildcat pass that was wrestled away by South Carolina Captain John Golden on the Kentucky 22-meter line. Golden rambled the distance and stumbled his way over the try line with a Wildcat player draped over his head and shoulders.
Even though Golden managed to touch the ball down, the game official awarded the Gamecocks with a penalty try (high tackle) and blew the long whistle. South Carolina won 19-12.
With Clemson defeating Tennessee in the other semi-final, the table was set. South Carolina would take on its rival with a conference 7s championship on the line.
With sideline cheers and despair, the game was epic. The Gamecocks scored first. The disciplined and well-coached Clemson team answered. In all, there were three lead changes. With just 30 seconds remaining, the Tigers seemed to secure a victory with a try and successful conversion that staked Clemson to a 19-17 advantage.
With time running short the resilient Gamecocks secured the kick-off and ran off several phased attacks. The Tigers, under pressure, committed a penalty. The infraction gave the Gamecocks the opening they needed. Spinning the ball wide, South Carolina found Thomas Allison with space. With a Clemson defender closing fast, the freshman barely managed to find the corner of the try zone.
Once again, South Carolina had managed a win on the game’s final play (22-19). And a wildly partisan spectator crowd, who had been urging the underdogs to victory, erupted in applause and song. The Gamecocks had won their first SCRC 7s Championship since 2019.
The tournament championship marked a remarkable resurgence for the Gamecocks who finished fifth in the SCRC 15s season. Under first-year coach John Roberts, South Carolina salvaged the fall season with solid wins over Alabama and Kennesaw State and entered the Spring 7s season with cautious optimism.
Heading into Spring break, the Gamecocks had compiled a 6-6-1 record while competing against talented teams. In mid-March the team found a stride, winning the Classic City 7s Tournament (Athens, Georgia) and finishing second to Tennessee in the Gamecock Invitational April 10.
With the wins, South Carolina owns a 18-8-1 record in 7s, and are 10-2 since March 25.
“I am really proud of the team, particularly our Captain John Golden,” said Roberts. “There is not much separation between the SCRC’s top four teams. And our team showed a lot of resilience by gritting out those final two games. They never stopped believing in themselves.”
As SCRC Champions, the Gamecocks earned an automatic berth to the Collegiate Rugby 7s National Championship Tournament, to be held May 28-30 in New Orleans and televised by CBS. The team will also participate in the USA Rugby National 7s Collegiate Championships, which will be held May 14-15 in Atlanta and televised by NBC.
You can support the team’s fundraising drive by visiting this page.
View the games
UofSC 22 Clemson 19
UofSC 19 UK 12