By Phil Beck
SCRC Olympic Rugby Sevens Championship Tuscaloosa AL, April 1, 2023 – In initial pool play we faced Ole Miss, Georgia Tech and Sewanee. We were the first to face Sewanee and before the game started we were told that, unfortunately, Sewanee did not have enough players. So, the team would be made up largely from Tennessee reserve players which I thought would be a great way to start and see how we could perform.
Memphis played extremely well and held Sewanee to a 42-5 final. Tries from Nick (2), Jason (2), Matt and Conor, with Conor converting 6.
Next up was Georgia Tech who are always a tough side. At half time Memphis were up 14-7. Memphis then got into their stride and ended the game 28-12 with tries from Harry (2) Jason Tyler and 2 conversions each from Conor and Matt.
Our final pool match was against Ole Miss who came out and put 12 points up very quickly. This was a wake up call for Memphis who finished the half 2 points ahead (14-12). The 2nd half saw Memphis back into their stride and finished the game 35-17. Tries coming from Sehrab (2) Jason, Harry, and Conor with conversions from Matt (3) and Conor (2).
Onto the semi final against Vanderbilt who we have not played this year, so we were not sure what we were facing. We did not really allow Vanderbilt to touch the ball and by half time we were 24-0 up. The 2nd half Memphis continued to capitalize on a strong start and finished 59-0.
The Final against our biggest rivals Auburn. We knew that this would be our biggest test of the day and we were not disappointed.
Auburn had the kick. With an extremely strong win behind them, they put us under real pressure from the start. Auburn scored twice relatively quickly to push us at 14-0. Memphis finally were able to get possession, turning possession into points, taking the score to 14-7. Shortly before the end of the 1st half we had a yellow card which meant we were down a player for 2 mins. With outstanding play from the Tigers we were able to level the score at half time 14-14. Moving into the 2nd half would mean that we had the benefit of the wind. The second half would go back and forth with Auburn scoring making the score 19-14 and about 2 mins to go. In the dying seconds Matt was able to tie up the score 19-19 and putting us into a sudden death overtime.
Fortunately Auburn wanted to receive on kick off and we had the wind. Both Auburn and Tigers moved the ball well getting close to our line and also Tigers getting close to Auburn, but no scores. Almost 6 minutes into overtime Auburn found themselves in their 22 under intense pressure from Tigers and with a long pass coming from Auburn, Matt saw his moment… raced to gather an interception and dove over giving us the win 24-19 in a thrilling final.
Matt was selected Man of the Tournament for his steady play, playing through pain and for saving the day in the finals match.
The Tigers now have successfully won the SCRC Sevens championship for a second time in a row and will head to Washington, DC for Nationals.
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