NORMAN, Okla. – The third and final Allied Rugby Conference 7s Series concluded in a similar fashion as its first two stops. The University of Oklahoma won all four of its inter-conference matches Saturday, Oct. 19, which is the same 4-0 mark they posted in the ARC’s first two events.
The ARC, which is made up of the University of Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Sam Houston State, Baylor and the University of Oklahoma, organized the three-event Series in a point-awarding format. Whichever team earned the most points following the three events would receive an automatic selection to the 2013 USA Rugby College 7s National Championship. As it turned out, it did not take a mathematician to crown the ARC 7s Champion.
Following a come-from-behind victory against Texas Tech in the finals of the first leg of the event, Oklahoma seemed to be on cruise control on its way to a 16-0 conference record. It was apparent each school’s club improved from tournament to tournament, but, unfortunately for the rest of the field, Oklahoma never took its foot off the gas.
“One of the things we saw as the tournament went on is that everyone was playing better and better sevens every weekend,” Oklahoma’s first-year head coach Jason Horowitz said. “There are a lot of young teams. OU is a young team. For the most part, we got a little sharper in our weaker areas. I was really proud of the way Mike Al-Jiboori – our captain – led the guys through the Series.”
The unquestioned leader of the team, Al-Jiboori, is not the only Sooner on the team capable of making a big play.
“We’re at a big school, we have a big pool to select out of so we do have a wide variety of athletes,” the captain admitted. “I would say as a collegiate rugby team we’re pretty physically athletic with some key guys having some size and speed.”
A couple of those athletes are Al-Jiboori’s roommate, prop Patrick Jones, who sets the tone for the team physically, and sophomore fly half Jake Turner, who is noted as being the key distributor on the team.
In addition to the conference pool, four teams made the trip to Norman for sevens action, as well. Arkansas State, Lindenwood, University of Texas and North Texas played in a round robin. The non-conference pool was easily climaxed by an overtime duel, which Arkansas State eventually won against Lindenwood 31-26.
After each of the pool’s round robins wrapped up, the teams were reseeded to create four ARC-team vs. non-conference team matchups. The non-conference teams had their way with the ARC winning all four of their matches. Clearly, the match that was most sought after was the game featuring the host Sooners versus the defending USA Rugby College 7s National Champion Arkansas State.
Arkansas State’s experience and dynamic style of rugby caught a few of OU’s younger players off guard as they jumped out to an astounding 33-0 halftime lead. The Sooners rebounded coming out of the break and played the Red Wolves to an even score of 7-7 in the final 10 minutes. The Sooners look at the lopsided ending to an otherwise dominating ARC 7s Series as a positive learning experience.
“That game actually helped us tremendously,” said Al-Jiboori. “Now we can see what kind of rugby we have to play in order to compete nationally, and how fast we have to work and how we have to be cohesive as a team.”