February 1, 2014 – Atlanta: The Memphis Tigers took on Georgia Tech in its second conference match of the season. With only 18 on the trip, the Tigers were short on subs, and the touring squad fully understood that each person must play to their potential to win this match.
Georgia Tech has a beautiful new multi-purpose facility with a turf field for the match. Unfortunately, with multipurpose comes multiple lines. Rugby lines were burnt orange which didn’t stand out well. There were no less than 5 sets of colored lines on the pitch, and the goalposts were propped up at the end of the try line since Tech cannot drill holes in the turf to erect the posts. However, the Tigers adapted to the orientation and seemed to do well on the surface. The extra footing of the turf certainly helped the Tiger speedsters and we took that advantage to heart.
We missed a coverage assignment and Georgia Tech get the first points, but that seemed to just fire up the Tigers. We made a few adjustments and went after them again. Cameron Walton scored our first points with a nice finishing run from the wing. Shortly thereafter, TJ Hardaway shook off several tacklers on sixth phase ball from the inside center position to dive in for his score.
Our backline was having their way with Tech mainly because of solid forward play. The pack were exceptional in all set pieces, winning our lineouts and scrums, and many of theirs. We freely gained yards but had difficulty finishing plays. Red zone offense seemed confused for some reason.
We had a bit of a problem getting the ball to the backline from the scrum since their very experienced scrum half was standing offsides, but number 8 Jonathan Bauer corrected the problem by opting to feed scrum half Tezman Mosley. The ball began to flow well again. Cameron took another try before the end of the half, putting the tigers up 15-5.
The second half was even more punishing than the first. The hits were unbelievable. The turf gave good footing and the collisions from both sides were fierce. Our lads blew up anyone with the ball and the same power was demonstrated at the rucks.
Unfortunately, we made a mistake at the goal line and a clearing kick fell short of the touch line. The Tech winger walked into the try zone untouched (Damn that field is wide!) bringing the score to 15 – 10.
With 20 minutes left in the match, the fierce competition is wearing on everyone. At one stoppage of play, I see 8 Tech players lying on the ground not moving. Unfortunately, Bert Milam and August Myers are bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth and must come off the pitch. We also lose Tezman at 9 due to an ankle injury. In go, Nicholas Harrison and Sam Kordab… both short on experience, but these solid athletes clearly see what needs to be done. Hector Marquez, not quite fully recovered from his leg injury is asked to step up and he takes his duty at flanker. Hector’s “all in” and ready to show that he can play at this level.
Though he has a sore knee, TJ goes to wing, Josiah goes to 9, and Adam Hairston stands outside center. Can this patched up line hold off Tech… attacking with all they have?
Donovan Thomas had been hungry all day and decided it was his turn. Taking forth phase ball from the 40 meter, he blasted through three tacklers and kicked another off his heels while in the try zone to center the ball. (We had a hard time kicking with the posts 20 meters off the try line so he decided to give kicker John Elmore the best shot possible.) Elmore was able to convert and the Tiger coaches breathe easier at 22- 10.
Tech was not done. With the clock winding down, they are screaming to fire each other up. They find a crease down the right side and score with 5 minutes left in the match. 22-17.
While the conversion is attempted, Adam calls his side together for one last goal line chat. The “We will not be denied our victory, “declares Adam. All agree and they slowly walk to the kick. The Tigers smother the receiver at the Tech 40 and steal the ball. This is the last Tech will see of the ball.
The Tigers move back and forth across the pitch, phase after phase inching the ball forward with outstanding runs and punishing rucks. With seconds left TJ, John, and Donovan attack the goal line. Finally, Bauer picks up at the base of TJ’s ruck and powers through three players to fall in goal.
The Try is awarded. John gets one last shot at this quirky goal and the referee calls the match. Time is done. Tigers win 27-17. Pandemonium breaks out in the Tiger huddle. This win has been a long time coming. The Tigers paid with this win through the past year’s work, blood, sweat and pain. They are thrilled with what they’ve accomplished.
The coaches are mostly and relieved. I almost don’t believe the win until I see the conference paperwork signed by the referee and the captains. Whew! Finally.
The social was fabulous and a time to bask in the pleasure of the win and reflect. Over pizza, the lads chatted with the Tech players, probing how to best KSU. We thanked Tech for their hospitality and hospitality. Three cheers for Tech and we were back the vans for a six hour sweet dreaming ride home.
Side: 1. Justice Houston, 2. Josiah Shipley (Pack Leader), 3. Matt Hill, 4. Ronnie Roberson, 5. Chris Lemons, 6. August Myers, 7. Adam Hairston (Captain), 8. Jonathan Bauer, 9. Tezman Mosley, 10. John Elmore (Backs leader), 11. Bert Milam, 12. TJ Hardaway 13. Donovan Thomas, 14. Cameron Walton, 15. Antony Smith, 16. Hector Marquez, 17. Nicholas Harrison 18. Sam Kordab
Referee: Vince Lucey (SERRS)
Final Score: 27 – 17
Social: Rocky Mountain Pizza
Man of the Match: Cameron Walton
Best Forward: Chris Lemons
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