The Memphis Tigers beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a great contest of rugby last Saturday at Memorial Field on the U of M campus in front of 120 happy fans.
The Tigers opened the scoring from a penalty kick by fly half Grant Caldwell at the 32 mid post at the 9:40 mark. The Tigers started off more quickly than they usually do. Unfortunately, the post kick let down gave the Bulldogs an opening and they made a long break to score under the posts at 15 minutes into the match.
Throughout the match the Tiger forwards provided plenty of clean ball for their backs from scrums and lineouts, robbing State several times in the process. Clearly the Tigers had the heavier and more capable pack.
Turk Wiggley filled in from fullback on a broken play to score in the corner at the 30 minute mark. Ten minutes later in injury time Turk worked with Ethan Scott to move the ball down the south sidelines to collect another score. He downed the ball between the posts making Grant’s conversion easier. The Tigers went into the locker room ahead 15 to 7 and feeling fairly confident.
Things became tougher in the second half with the defense of both teams shutting down the offenses. Yards were hard fought and it was not uncommon to see the defense gaining yards with each phase. Despite the hard defense, the tougher players found a way to break through. At the 5 minute mark in the second half, Captain and star hooker Musa Banat scored in the southwest corner to move the score to 20-7.
The Bulldog defense continued to make things hard on the Tigers and the Tigers defense kept the Bulldogs hemmed in. Every yard gained was very tough. Number 12, Cameron Massengill, from Miss State deserves honorable mention. He was very difficult to control, braking the Tiger line time after time. One time he made a solo 55 meter run through the tigers breaking 10 tackles in the process. Turk Wiggley finally took him to ground or he would have scored.
Tiger prop Jeremiah Russell got his hands on the ball 11 minutes into the second half and powered over 4 Bulldogs to add 5 more points for the Tigers.
Jeremiah has a nose for the ball and once he gets started he is very hard to stop,” stated coach Swatzyna. ” We are the biggest team we have had in the past 7 years and Jeremiah is one of our bigger lads. With his ball handling skills, size and speed, he is the future of the Tigers. ”
Grant picked up a try with a breakaway when the ball was quickly moved wide of the fatiguing defense. he converted the try to give the Tigers 34 points.
At the 35 the Tigers helped the Bulldog offense by committing 4 penalties in a row allowing the Bulldogs to start an attack at the Tiger 25. The Tigers fought hard but the Bulldogs powered over to score their second try of the game. The conversion was short.
The Tigers slotted the win with a final score of 34-12. They hosted State to burgers and Gatorade at Newby’s Restaurant, where the game was reviewed and friendships were made. The Tigers and State players have maintained a good relationship and this rivalry continues to be a pleasant one.
Scoring: Grant Caldwell 14 points, Turk Wiggly 10 points, Musa Banat 5 points, and Jeremiah Russell 5 points
Film highlights are available at the Tiger Youtube site.
The referee for the day was Storm Coach Josh Gardner who did an admirable job. Thanks Josh.
Photos by Stacy Scott. Thanks Stacy.
Debra invites all Tiger fans to enjoy the new Newbys on the Highland strip. The renovation of Newbys makes the bar a fun place to visit. The charm of the old Newbys remains but the facility is cleaner and nicer. Gotta check it out.