The Tigers earned a spot in Friday’s title game following a 42–3 thrashing of the Ole Miss Rebels in the SEC semifinals.
The game was originally scheduled to be played in Auburn, but was moved to a neutral site in Jacksonville, Miss., because of weather complications.
Club president and flyhalf Stewart Martin said his guys were not very happy about the move, but once they arrived in Jacksonville, the team was ready to get started.
“At the start of the game, you could tell that we were playing a whole lot better than they were,” Martin said. “We were more organized, and the score showed that.”
The Auburn players who scored were senior flanker Nick Eyles, sophomore flanker George Kasper, senior fullback Camron Strong, freshman outside center Aaron Porter, freshman wing Ben Winiarczyk and senior inside center Joey Palazzolo.
Good support and ball movement allowed Auburn to defeat the Rebels.
After the win, the Tigers moved on to face Vanderbilt in the SEC title game.
The championship game marked the second time this season the teams played each other, with Auburn coming away with a 28–13 victory the first meeting.
This time around, it was the Commodores who got the best of the Tigers, winning the game 9–3.
“They were ready to play,” Martin said. “They had the ball for most of the game, forcing us to play defense.
Palazzolo was the lone scorer for the Tigers.
Although Auburn kept Vanderbilt from converting on any scoring attempts, the Commodores took advantage of Auburn’s mental errors, scoring all nine points off of penalty kicks alone.
“It comes down to knowing right from wrong and knowing the rules of the game,” Palazzolo said. “We all know them, and sometimes you get a little overzealous on certain things and make errors that cost you possession of the ball.”
A large number of people showed up last Friday, and Martin said he thinks it might have caused a few jitters in some of the guys.
Auburn is finished with competitive play this season, but the Tigers will compete in the Saint Patrick’s Day Rugby Tournament in Savannah, Ga., before hosting the Kentucky Wildcats for a friendly match April 2.
Although the tournament is noncompetitive, Palazzolo said the team will continue to try to improve on skills.
“We’ll correct mistakes and work on ball control,” Palazzolo said. “We had some errors handling the ball on Friday night, but our defense was very good.”
Aside from the overall improvement in the wins and losses columns, Martin said the biggest attribute of this year was the number of participants.
“In the past we’ve had a hard time trying to get people to go,” Martin said. “We play 15 guys, and in the past we would only be able to travel with 16 or 17 to where this year we have 28 to 30 people.”
Martin said the team is not too beat up about the loss—in years to come with some extra practice, the team will definitely get better.
“I keep talking about it, but we have a really, really good group of young guys, and that is key the success of the club,” Martin said. “This core group of guys is going to be around for a while, so we could turn it in to something good. I’m excited to see where it’s going, especially next year and after I’m gone since we’re only losing a handful of guys.”