In their final outing of the fall, the University of Memphis Rugby Football Club rolled over Mississippi State, 37-0. (Rumors of a 44-0 win were over exaggerated. A review of the tape and consultation with the referee were required to set the record straight. More later.)
It was senior day on November 16th when Miss State rolled into town. Before the match, each senior was singled out, and his accomplishments highlighted. Grads were thanked for their contributions to the team. Justin Walden for his slicing running and hard tackling. He also brought a special spirit to the team, leading our cheers at games and practices. Chris Cobb, with his athleticism and powerful tackling… dominating in the rucks. Joshua Campbell, default on-field coach because of his deep knowledge of the game. He also had an uncanny ability to scan the field, finding the opponent’s weaknesses. Ryan Phillips was highlighted for his leadership, strength and power. At the jersey presentation, Ryan’s father surprised Ryan and the entire team by coming in for the game from to see Ryan’s last match. (See Ryan.)
Following the locker room lift, it was no surprise that Ryan led the scoring. Everyone was jacked up, especially Ryan. Within 5 minutes of kickoff, the Tigers were pounding at the State goal line. Off a fast ruck, Ryan scooped up a ball at the 3 meter line, powered over three tacklers and took 5 points. Fellow graduate Joshua kicked the conversion and the Tigers led 7-0.
However, State is a proud team and they fought back very hard. The play became sloppy as offensive play was stifled by an iron defense on both sides of the ball. The Tigers were very tough in the red zone stopping State several times at the line. Time after time they would drive close, but the Tigers repelled them with quick thinking and booming kicks.
Kian and Tyler Mann were sent off bloody. Tyler with a deep crescent gash in the top of his head was sent to the hospital for staples. Kian, despite a deep cut over his eye, refused to bleed. He got taped up to re-enter the match. End of the first half the Tigers only lead 7-0… lots of work to do.
Throughout the game the Tigers and State were plagued with penalties at the breakdown. This is an important area of play a that the Tigers must figure out before SIRC play begins.
The second half was a totally different game. In the first minute, State is caught lying on the ball at their 30 and Phil takes three points. The Tigers score again in the fifth minute when Phil kicks an errant State pass at their 25, dribbles the ball, picks it up on the hop and takes it in for his first try the day. He converts and the Tigers are feeling more confident. They begin to play smarter and loosen up.
It the 20th minute on third phase ball, the backs handle the ball to the wing and pop to Justin Hale who breaks three tackles as he heads for the try line. As he reaches the two meter line, he is upended by his collar. The referee calls for a penalty try. (Here is where the score gets screwed up.) As the referee has a lengthy discussion with the offending State player, Phil kicks the conversion through the uprights. However, the referee had time off and disallows the conversion.
The next points come in the 24th minute when the Tigers find themselves with a lineout at the 5 meter line. They attempt a push over maul, but the ball is held up. On the scrum reset, Phil and Walden execute a perfect 1-3 switch with Walden cutting across the grain of the defense… head down at full pace. Classic Walden Run. (From this point forward that play shall be called “Walden”). No one dare stop him and he slides in for his graduation try.
The conversion is no good (on tape), but the score rises to 27-0. All seniors have scored except Chris Cobb. He knows this and he plots his points.
At the 29th minute, the forwards push over a 5 meter scrum but the ball is mishandled and a pileup ensues. Alastair calls for a reset… 5 meters attacking. As Kian dribbles from the 8 position toward the goal, Jonathan Brewi steals the ball, spins the tackler and dots for 5.
The Tigers clearly have the upper hand now. Everything is working for the Tigers. Lineouts are perfect, scrums dominate and we control the loose play. Our kicks are even landing perfectly.
With time running out, State is caught not releasing at the 10 meter line. After a discussion, the forwards decide tap and run. Brewi on the tap, but Chris Cobb will not let him get away. As Brewi is hit at the 5, he spins and hands off perfectly to Chris who powers over three tacklers to get his graduation points. Chris misses the conversion and the final whistle blows. Final score 37-0.
This is the perfect way to end a fall season. A win over a tough SEC opponent at home under the lights on a Friday night. All graduates score points and leave happy. Rugby is a truly wonderful game.
Referee: Alastair Twaddle
All players played in this match.
Final Score 37-0
Points scored: Phil Elliott 10, Ryan Phillips 5, Justin Walden 5, Justin Hale 5, Chris Cobb 5, Jonathan Brewi 5, Joshua Campbell 2