The Tigers finished at the top of their division after giving MTSU their first loss of the season.
The win signified Memphis beat every team in their division to advance into the D-II National Playoffs. Coach Marc Holley said his team set the tone early and Middle Tennessee had no chance of getting back into the game with the way Memphis was performing.
“The team is extremely excited,” Holley said. “My excitement won’t hit for a while. The way that I look at it right now, we still have unfinished business [in the playoffs].”
Memphis led 19-5 at halftime and had no serious threats of losing their lead. The second half was much more even as MTSU outscored the Tigers 10-8. However, the Tigers had plenty to do to keep the score from being any closer. Holley credited the opposition by saying they outperformed the Tigers in any ruck related part of the game, but it was not enough.
“We were dominating them in the first half,” Holley said. “We got on our heels a little bit in the second half, but we bent we didn’t break.”
The Tigers collectively played solid in most aspects, but their biggest success was the versatility of their backline. Calvin Gentry could not be stopped as he scored three tries against the Blue Raiders. Brittin Roedel scored a try and was sufficient in the kicking assignment. Roedel was 2-for-4 on conversion kicks and 1-for-1 in field goal attempts.
Colin Remscheid devastated the Middle Tennessee chances in an unexpected performance. Remscheid kept the Blue Raiders to 2-8 in of their lineouts, and the Tigers were gifted six additional possessions.
Both teams had brittle tolerance of each other, and three altercations occurred between them. Only one player was given a yellow card, and MTSU played with one less player in the second half.
Memphis kept the starting lineup healthy and will now await the announcement of their next opponent in the playoffs.
This was the first time any player on the team had beaten Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee did not allow any Memphis team to win in the last 10 seasons. Memphis lost to MTSU the previous two times lost by a combined three points while not in a conference. Now Memphis has been crowned the champions of the SCRC DII division in their first season with the conference.
Captain Musa Banat played for the Tigers when they left the South Independent Rugby Conference and were independent. Banat watched his team enter the SCRC and beat MTSU for landmark events in the program’s history.
“I’m so glad we finally prevailed,” Banat said. “This is the thing we have been working for every year but have not attained. This means the world.”
MTSU is set to play Georgia Tech in what will be their final game of the season. The Blue Raiders’ postseason hopes ended with the loss to Memphis.
The win has qualified Memphis for a playoff game. The opponent is unknown, and so is the location and date. There will be no confirmed game until all other conferences crown a champion, and the national rugby committee decides the matchups. However, the Tigers will be scheduled against an equally-achieving team.
“We have opportunities to go play someone we have never played before,” Holley said. “It will be some unfamiliar grounds, so we have to keep improving and see what happens.”