After outscoring opponents 121-7 in the four games leading into the final of the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference Olympic 7s, the University of Tennessee found themselves facing an obstacle.
Faced with a determined Florida squad that had battled throughout the day, the Volunteers were hit with a yellow card and, predictably, a try soon after. Tie ballgame, 14-14. Florida, in half of a game, had scored twice as many points as 56 minutes of work from other teams had tallied.
“Going into halftime we still felt confident,” said UT’s Matt Neuhart. “Our defense had led the way all season, and we felt that once the yellow card was over, we were good to go.”
Tennessee has, as much as any college program, embraced the idea of collegiate 7s. Since appearing in the first USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship they have continued to play and train 7s.
“We’re starting to play better team 7s,” said Neuhart. “A lot of us have been playing together or against each other for a lot of years – since high school. We know how to work together and play as a team. You look at the results; LSU is a really good team and one we always have trouble, with, and we did well against them.”
Tennessee beat the Tigers 36-0.
In the end, Tennessee scored two tries to win the SCRC 7s, led by the outstanding play of Nick Evans, Joe Brink and Nick Vigder, who all logged significant minutes throughout the tournament. They won 26-14, and, said Neuhart, had to.
“We were hosting this tournament, and we wanted to put on a good event, but we also felt we had to win, put on a good showing, for the home fans,” he said. “Going into that second half, we knew we could do it.”