So, St. Andrews (St Andrews Rugby - Home) won our inaugural 15's match against USC, 34-19. Yours truly, split man of the match honors with the other flanker. (I will try to post pictures sometime soon, but for those of you who are friends on Facebook, they are up.)
Here is our website's write up of the match:
On Saturday (Sept 5th 2009) the much anticipated launch of the inaugural season for the newly-established Saint Andrew's Rugby Football Club (St Andrews Rugby - Home), of Greer, South Carolina, got underway with a bang. Facing a young USC side in the capital city (Columbia), Saint Andy's was able to overcome early nerves and a 7 -12 first-half deficit to register their first official victory by a count of 34 - 19 at the full time hooter.
With roughly half a dozen practices and two 10-a-side tournaments under their belts, the club was ready to hit the road with nothing more than high hopes and great anticipation for what was to come. According to Joffre Swait, the club's founder, weighing in at a magnificent 6'9 and 300 pounds, "Regardless of the outcome of our match today, Saturday, September 5th, 2009 marks a very special date in our club's history". Although there were several notable absences in the side due to prior engagements (Zack, Jake, Tony, Josh, Erickson, Randy, Cliff, Dover, Shap), Saint Andrew's was able to make the trip with a well rounded squad of 19 players. With an age-range from 19 years old all the way up to 47 years old, and match experience between 0 games and over 250 games between individual players, it was clear that sticking to the basics was going to be a must if the club had any hopes of surviving the entire 80 minutes, let alone collecting their first scalp.
Action in the first half was fast and furious as Saint Andy's tried to make the adjustment to playing on a regulation pitch against a much faster side. As the two teams tried to feel each other out, USC managed to strike first on a long range try in the corner after taking a quick tap penalty which came as a resultof some ill-disciplined defensive play (high tackle). The conversion sailed wide and Saint Andy's was quickly down (0 - 5).
The anxiety level climbed even higher as USC continued to apply pressure on Saint Andy's by capitalizing on several handling errors committed by the backs and forwards alike. At one point in time it looked like nobody had even seen a ball, let alone touched one. During a short injury break Saint Andy's was able to regain their composure after some strong words from scrum-half Mike May. "Rugby is an easy game. You pass, you catch, and it’s that simple. 15's is a long game, let's calm down and get it sorted out".
Over the remaining 20 minutes Saint Andy's started to settle into their game plan, and outside center Jason Ledford was able to power through two defenders for a try and a brief 7-5 lead. Ledford was able to squeeze through the middle for a 15 meter run after being put through the gap by fullback Dave "PNG" Edwards. USC managed to work their way to one more try in the first half just before the whistle which left the count at 7-12 in favor of the hosts.
During half time Saint Andy's coach and number 10 Mike Miller had only two quick comments: "Please do not talk to the ref ", and "get back to what we've been practicing - bom, bom, bom, try". Joffre admitted that he had no idea what language that was, but he did understand what it meant and felt that it summed it up perfectly. As the second half unfolded it was clear that everyone now knew what “bom, bom, bom, try” meant. Saint Andy's came out with much more discipline and was able to focus on their strengths.
Getting back to hard straight running and first man rucking resulted in the clean ball that we were looking for and it enabled us to conduct one way traffic throughout the second half. In particular our flankers and number 8 (Nick Napier, Matt Garrett, and Ryan “The Beefcake” Lockwood) really got the club moving in the right direction with some punishing runs through the USC defensive line, and several filling-rattling tackles on their would-be attackers. Not to be outdone inside center Todd Seay was in fine form on the defensive end and seemed to ignite the entire side with his constant presence around the ball.
Saint Andrews pulled into a 12 - 12 tie shortly after the half began when winger Dan "The Man" Phillips was able to keep his feet and spin through a tackle to sneak into the corner for the first try of the second half. Once he opened the flood gates it was as if there were tries raining down from the heavens for the next 15 minutes. Next on the score sheet was Ellis “Idaho” Eiffert, who touched down directly under the sticks after a wide move from a set phase. Mike May converted to put us ahead for the first time of the match, 19 - 12. About 12 minutes later St. Andy's stretched the lead a little further with a well-earned try created by two big tackles from Todd Seay, which caused USC to spill the ball. Nick Napier pounced on the gift and moved it to within a meter of the line. St. Andy's superior size gave Mike May the breathing space to exercise his old rugger patience, as he waited for the dust to settle, then burrowed in with forward support for a little breathing space on the scorecard (24 - 12).
At that point, although it would have been easy for them to do so, USC never gave up. After some dubious tactical kicking by number 10 Mike “Tex” Miller, USC capitalized on a good long range try to bring the score alarmingly close at 24-19 with around 12 minutes remaining. Happily Saint Andy's still had enough in the tank to advance the ball into USC territory and to apply steady defensive pressure, which kept the Gamecocks in their own end as the clock wound down. Eventually the continued pressure caused the USC lineout to crack, and Joffre Swait found himself the proud owner of yet another stolen ball off of their lineout. Tex camped out well behind the ensuing ruck and Mike May gave him perfect service for an easy 30m drop goal that took St. Andy's out of immediate danger at 27-19. That kick seemed to break USC's spirit and discipline, and Saint Andy's were able to put in one more try for good measure when full back Dave “PNG” Edwards hooked up with Mike May for a converted try under the sticks which brought the final hooter and score of (34-19).