In 2001, the Southern Pines Rugby Club got started at a meeting at O’Donnell’s pub and played social rugby. In 2011, at the same location, the team decided to become competitive and in the 2016 season won the Division 3 Conference Championship and finished in the top 15 in the nation. During the 2017 season, the team won the conference and finished in the top 4 in the nation and was awarded with a promotion to division 2.
Saturday, the Big Cones won the Division 2 championship over Atlanta Renegades 46-18 and secured the number one seed for the Southern Conference Championship.
The first ten minutes of the match saw both sides testing each other trying to discover weaknesses. Southern Pines drew first blood with a try by Chris Skinner who got a nice offload from Austin Hooper who had engaged a defender.
Atlanta was not going to back down and added a try of their own to tie up the match 5-5 about 15 minutes into the first half. Atlanta committed a penalty on a hit away from the ball and Zach Miller slotted the penalty kick to go up 8-5.
It was back and forth for the next few minutes before Brandon “Rabbit” Reamers stole a pass out of the air and scampered 20 meters for the try. Neither side was able to put in another score before halftime, so Southern Pines went into the half up 15-5.
In the second half, Atlanta cut the lead to 15-8 with a penalty kick 10 minutes into the second half. Southern Pines answered by a try from Shawn Riley off a penalty play to take a 22-8 lead 5 minutes later and then added a try by Zach Miller off a kick caught and countered by Jone Koronihagana and a 29-8.
Atlanta slotted another penalty kick to make it 29-11 with 20 minutes left in the half. Atlanta continued to put pressure on the Southern Pines defense, but the defense kept holding.
Emerson Bessell stole a knocked on the ball and Southern Pines raced to the other side where Jone ultimately dotted it down to expand the lead to 36-11. Atlanta scored their second try of the match to cut the lead to 36-18.
Atlanta was pressing again, but Jone stole a pass and went 85 meters for the try untouched to extend the lead to 41-18. Time was ticking down, but Southern Pines wasn’t done scoring yet.
Travis Matagi picked the ball up from the back of a scrum and broke three tackles before finding Robert Bortins for a pop pass. Robert drew two defenders and passed back to Travis who scored the try, and the match was over 46-18.
Both sides will advance to the Southern Conference Championship on May 5th and 6th at the National Athletic Village.
The Miami Tridents will represent Florida and Birmingham or New Orleans will represent the true south region. Men’s division 3 will be there as well, with Asheville being the North Carolina representative. The Charlotte women will be representing North Carolina in the Women’s division 2 championship bracket.
The winners of the Southern Conference Championship will advance to the East Coast Championship in Columbus, Ohio on May 19th and 20th.
Visit www.southernpinesrugby.org for more information.
Article written by Robert Bortins, Sandhills Sentinel Contributor
Photo and video contributed by Southern Pines Rugby Club.