|A&M's Brian Guillen as a Woodlands Exile|
Texas A&M became the sixth team to automatically qualify for the inaugural USA Rugby college 7s national championship Saturday by winning Oklahoma 7s. The Aggies went 4-0 on the day, beating Oklahoma State and Kansas State in pool play, Texas in the semifinals and host Oklahoma in the final.
It took past the allotted 20 minutes for A&M to trump the Sooners. The Aggies led 5-0 late in the opening half, Tyler Gessner having scored an unconverted try, but Oklahoma’s Brad Henry catapulted the home team into the lead with a converted score just before intermission.
A&M opened the second half like the first, with a try, this one by Brian Guillen and converted. A&M led until the end of regulation, which came to a close when OU’s Michael Al-Jiboori beat three Aggies and covered 50 meters to dot down the tying try with no time left on the clock. The ensuing kick, taken directly in front of the posts, was missed, pushing the match into a three-minute overtime.
Weeks earlier at A&M 7s, OU defeated the Aggies in the final after losing to them in pool play. A&M director of rugby Craig Coates cited his team’ inability to cope with the elongated rigors of a 7s tournament as part of the explanation. With a bid to nationals on the line and no subs, the Aggies claimed overtime victory when Matt Saladino dotted down. The kick converted, the Aggies won 19-12.
“It was a pretty tough day, and we just managed to keep enough pressure on and maintain possession and score,” said Coates. “This is our first season of really putting a serious effort into the 7s and we sort of got better and better week by week, and it’s been a tussle.”
Playing every minute of every game Saturday for A&M were captain Connor Mills and Brian Guillen. Guillen spent the summer honing his 7s skills as a Woodlands Exile, playing alongside Canadion National Team players and reaching the club 7s national championships.
“I think his biggest moment was probably the game against UT in the semifinal…He probably made half our team’s tackles and got up on the ground and stole ball in the tackle and put pressure on and slowed the ball down,” said Coates of Guillen.
“That was probably the most impressive part for me, was the last five minutes of that UT game when we only had a 7-0 lead and they had a lot of ball. His work rate was unbelievable.”
Texas A&M is the frontrunner to host nationals Dec. 16-17, making the clinching of an automatic berth that much sweeter.
“It’s still not official, and there’s still some things trying to be sorted out between USA Rugby and Rec Sports and Athletics, so it’s certainly no done deal, but we’re hoping we’re very, very close,” said Coates.
“I think, in general, you’d like to win your way in rather than be one of the at-large bids or be a host that they felt sorry for and let in anyway. You want to earn your way in.”
Coates was complimentary of the Sooners, who he thinks deserve one of the 10 at-large bids to nationals.
“I think they certainly deserve one. They’ve played more 7s than probably most people. They won our tournament and they won the Heart of America tournament, and they lost in overtime with a kick that could have won it for them.”
Texas A&M 19-12 Oklahoma
Texas 17-12 Texas Tech
Kansas Stat 15-10 Okla. State
Texas A&M 7-0 Texas
Oklahoma 41-0 Texas Tech
Texas A&M 19-12 K-State
Oklahoma 15-12 Texas
Texas Tech 24-7 K-State
Texas 33-12 Okla. State
Texas A&M 21-7 Texas Tech
Oklahoma 29-0 Okla. State