Oklahoma won Texas A&M 7s Saturday with a 20-7 defeat of the host Aggies. The Sooners fell to A&M in the day’s opening match, but won three in a row to take the varsity crown. Sam Houston beat OU’s second side 21-14 to claim the junior varsity title.
In addition to OU and A&M, Texas and Baylor entered sides in the varsity bracket.
“They kind of jumped on us,” said OU coach Kenny Forehand of the Aggies in their tournament-opening win over the Sooners, “but our guys really rebounded, so that’s one of the great things about an early season tournament is that you get to see how your guys are going to respond.
“The next couple of games they got it together and proved our pattern and tried to work on a couple of things and improve, and that was kind of our message, let’s try to improve a little each game.”
According to Aggie coach Craig Coates, the Sooners did just that.
“OU had some standout players. They just got better and better as the day went on. They were very good.”
Some of OU’s standout players of yore, Taylor Mokate, Arryn Wilkinson and Kelton Miller, are gone, but Forehand has ushered in some fresh talent.
One of the impacting newcomers is wrestling convert Joe Bach, who joined the Sooners last season but is just now blooming into a rugby player.
“He’s a beast. He’s a fullback in football, and in wrestling he wasn’t quite big enough to be a heavyweight wrestler, but he’s a hoss and he’s fast and he’s a lot to deal with,” said Forehand, “so he gives a lot of people fits, especially late in the day when you’re tired you just don’t want to tackle a guy like him.”
Emerging as a freshman standout was center Michael Al-Jiboori.
“He’s a specimen. He’s really dangerous and he’s big and he’s fast,” added Forehand.
“Our junior wing Brad Henry played probably as good as I’ve seen him play in terms of being aggressive and testing the outside, and that was freeing Michael on the inside. The combination of those two on the outside just testing people, they kind of opened each other up. By the time they got Texas they were playing with an attitude.”
Oklahoma never needs a rah rah speech to give them incentive to beat the rival Longhorns, but this time around they were out for revenge. OU has dominated the Red River series the last several years, but on national TV at the CRC in June, it was the Longhorns who emerged victorious.
“I think it was definitely in the back of the boys' minds,” said Forehand. “Give them credit, they came in prepared and got after us, and so our boys weren’t taking them lightly for sure, and that was a must-win game to go to the final, so there was a lot of motivation to say the least.”
After OU beat Texas to reach the final, their experience at the CRC gave them the upper hand against A&M, who for all intents and purposes was playing its first competitive, organized 7s tournament.
“I think that was tough on them. We beat OU the first match of the day in our pool, and then sort of because of the breaks in between and perhaps not doing a good job of staying hydrated and getting enough sustenance and things, we were a bit flat come the final,” said Coates.
“Just being able to deal with a tournament is different than just a one-off match.”
Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M are slated to see each other again Oct. 15 in Norman, Okla. for Big XII 7s, a qualifier for the inaugural USA Rugby collegiate 7s national championship.