The Sooners of Oklahoma University came out strong and persevered through the day to win the Varsity Final in Lubbock, TX on the first stop of the 2013 Allied Rugby Conference Fall 7s Series sponsored by World Rugby Shop. Under new coach, Jason Horowitz, and with the new philosophy posted above, Oklahoma put their fellow conference members on notice that the Sooners will be a force to be reckoned with at all points this season. Sooner Prop, Patrick “P-Jones” Jones, was named the WRS Player of the Tournament for his game changing tackles, fends and line-breaks through the Sooners’ four wins. With no time left in the final, Jones seemed to will himself through the Texas Tech defense before sprinting for in-goal to score the winning try.
Oklahoma and Texas Tech had the final in their sites as they handily dispatched their opponents during pool play. However, each team met stiff resistance in the semifinals as Texas A&M and Sam Houston both seemed to find an extra gear.
The 19-5 scoreline between the Sooners and the Bearkats does not truly indicate the closeness of that match. Oklahoma drew a yellow card in the match after scoring their 19 and even after the binned player returned, they had to provide quick defensive answers to an onslaught of questions from Sam’s FH Brent Drost and team mates. The Sooners held the line, but just.
Tech looked to be in danger of not making the final early in the match against A&M. The Aggies started strong and held a lead for the first 12 minutes of the match. However, a late and very quick ball movement by Wes Mitchell to his favorite target, wing Jared Baird, put Tech ahead by two points at the full time whistle.
The Varsity Final proved a definite tale of two halves. The Red Raiders seemed comfortable as they racked up 19 points in the first half. FH Wes Mitchell found a way to test the Sooner defense and found them wanting. Being down two tries seemed to be the challenge that Sooners’ Coach Horowitz trained his boys to meet, though. Oklahoma Captain Michael Al-Jiboori exhorted his team to “dig deep” and they did. Tech had control and was determined to maintain it. Their defense was staunch. Their tackling sure and often. But Horowitz seemed to change tactics in the second half as OU possessions charged forward in the hands of their big men. These were hard yards for the Sooners but brawn and brutality soon wore down the resistance of the persistent. Two unconverted tries by the Sooners were hard fought for and only seconds were left with the ball in Tech’s possession. The hosts held a fragile 19-15 lead.
Tech drew a penalty for leaving their feet at a breakdown with no time left. As OU’s SH Isaac Koh tapped through the mark, Al-Jiboori was calling for “P-Jones”. The ball worked to Jones’ hands and he looked straight at the posts as he charged the middle of the Tech defense. He easily fended off the first Red Raider and goose-stepped through a diving tackle from a chasing defender, then he backed himself and hit the jets for 40 meters to dot the go-ahead try.
Al-Jiboori seemed over-whelmed with reasonable pride after the match as he talked about the hard work of the past few weeks paying off. When asked who his MVP was, he instantly responded, “My man, P-Jones!” Although Jones took the accolades with modesty, his teammates enthusiastically approved their captain’s choice.
Horowitz, who lives in Dallas but commutes to Norman to coach, talked about this win being a great start to the performance culture he envisions for OU Rugby. Despite being down 14 points at halftime, Horowitz said he never doubted his charges, he just reminded them what the long trips and daily training sessions were really all about. He knew they would work out the appropriate result. They did and OU Rugby now sits at the top of the 2013ARC 7s Series points standings.
The ARC takes the next weekend off. The conference’s second round of 7s rugby takes place at Texas A&M’s Penberthy Rec Sports Complex on September 28 with the University of Texas of the Southwest College Rugby Conference joining the festivities as the sixth team in the tournament.