Southern Pines Men’s Rugby traveled to Greenville on the Feb. 2 with a chance to take a commanding lead in the playoff race.
The first half looked like the visitors were going to run away with a victory, but the home team had other ideas and in the end, the score was tied 26-26 with each team getting two points for a tie and a bonus point for four tries being scored.
Southern Pines drove down inside the Greenville 22-meter line early in the match but were unable to put in a score after passing up an opportunity to kick for three points from a penalty. Greenville eventually stole the ball in a tackle and drove their way down the field, before a penalty for not rolling away after a tackle gave the ball back to Southern Pines.
Zach Miller finally broke through 20 minutes into the half and converted his own try to go up 7-0. Michael Goering added a second try minutes later, and it appeared the flood gates were getting ready to open but missed passes and missed opportunities kept the score 14-0 at the half.
Greenville took advantage of a penalty and poor tackling to cut the lead to 14-7 just two minutes into the second half with at try from Vie Florian. Southern Pines was not able to capitalize on good field position, and Greenville managed to get a break on the outside to tie the match up 14-14 just 10 minutes into the second half.
Southern Pines finally found their footing, and Blessing Montaung, who came up for the season from South Africa, added a try, but the kick went under the crossbar to make the score 19-14. Greenville scored again, and the ref ruled the kick was wide after conferring with the touch judges.
Southern Pines answered with 10 minutes left in the match with a try from Jeramy McCarty to extend the lead to 26-19. Greenville would not be denied, taking advantage of poor tackling, poor communication and multiple Southern Pines penalties to score with two minutes left in the match and tied the game 26-26.
Greenville tied league-leading Charlotte 22-22 this past weekend. Greenville travels to Southern Pines on Feb. 16. The winner will control their destiny for the playoffs.
Southern Pines is within striking distance of Charlotte, who failed to gain a bonus point in their draw. Southern Pines, Charlotte and Greenville all control their own destiny, but only two can make the playoffs.
In the south bracket, Atlanta Old White has claimed first place and will host the second place team out of the three, while Atlanta Renegades, who finished third in the country last year, will travel to whoever takes first.
The men, women, and youth teams are always looking for new players, fans and sponsors. Visit www.southernpinesrugby.org for more information.
Written by Sandhills Sentinel contributor Robert Bortins.
File photo of Emerson Bessell courtesy of Southern Pines Rugby.