Florida secured a spot in the Southeastern semifinals with a 17-14 defeat of LSU Saturday. The Gators will finish second in the SEC East, and likely get the Tigers in a rematch next month.
Florida scored a pair of tries in the first half, one converted, to take a 12-0 lead. It held that lead until just before intermission, when LSU dotted down a converted try to draw within five.
Midway through the second half, Will Greaves extended Florida’s lead with an unconverted try. LSU then pulled back within striking distance near the 70-minute mark with its second converted try. 17-14. Both teams had possession in the final 10 minutes, but Florida was able to hang on for the win.
Beating LSU is a feather in Florida’s cap, and could count for something when the competitions committee convenes next month to decide at-large berths for Nationals, of which there are only three. Florida coach Ken Simmons believes at least one should go to the runner-up in the Southeast.
“I think the second place in the SEC definitely deserves an at-large. I wish there was a better way to really see what the other teams have,” he said.
“But the way I look at it is, whoever wins the SEC championship’s going to be in a really good place, because they’ve gone through tough teams to get there. I think they’ll have played the competition they’ll need to be ready.
Elsewhere in the Southeast, South Carolina scored it’s second-consecutive win, beating Vanderbilt 34-27 in overtime.
Vandy led the visiting Gamecocks at halftime, 24-17, but couldn’t keep the advantage. South Carolina thought it had won the game near the end of regulation when scrumhalf Tim Holkenberg ran in off of a five-meter scrum, but the ref said he knocked on, forcing overtime.
Near the end of the first overtime period, USC was awarded a penalty try, which would prove to be the game winner.
“We drove the ball down right under the middle of the post,” said Gamecocks coach Mark Morris. “The pack was controlling the ball from about 30 meters in, was getting ready to score, and one of the guys that was posting up intentionally knocked the ball forward so we couldn’t score.”
South Carolina had to leave several players at home in Columbia, as they couldn’t get out of St. Patrick’s Day shifts at bars and restaurants, making the comeback win that much more impressive.
“It was a good thing. We went up there with B and C players and came back and beat a decent team,” Morris said.