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Outside of a 7s contest, Lindenwood and St. Mary's have never met.
Saturday, they tangle in the D1A semifinals in Moraga, Calif., in what
should be an exciting contest between evenly matched teams.
"The best thing is both teams have the element of surprise. Obviously,
geographically we don't get to play each other, so I think it will be a
great match," said Lindenwood coach JD Stephenson. "I think they play a
really exciting style of play, and it's great to watch, so I think for
rugby fans that are coming out to watch, it should be a great day of
The records wouldn't indicate that, though. The Gaels have been nothing
short of dominant this season, posting wins over BYU and Cal, dropping only
the return match to BYU and absolutely crushing everyone else in their
On the other hand, Lindenwood finished third in its conference. The
Lions have claimed three wins over two-time D1AA champ Davenport, but
they've not yet been able to get past Arkansas State or Life. However, in
recent playoff rugby, neither has St. Mary's. The Gaels fell to Life in the
D1A final last year, and they were bounced from the playoffs by Arkansas
State in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Though their seasons have been starkly different, St. Mary's and Lindenwood
have played like competition. The Gaels loaded up their schedule with tough
men's clubs and the best college teams west of the Mississippi. Lindenwood
played some high-level men's sides and the best college teams east of the
Mississippi. And, the reality is, both teams are playing their best rugby
in recent years.
"I think our team chemistry's come along great this season, much better
than last year," said St. Mary's flyhalf Garrett Brewer. "We've all just
clicked very well, and that's helped us out a lot this season. I think
that's the biggest thing that's helped us this season, our chemistry and
our ability to understand our teammates."
Lindenwood is playing its way through some turmoil. The Lions mourned the
death of a teammate at playoff time last spring, they underwent a coaching
change midseason, and they've seen a starter recently suspended. Through it
all, they've given the likes of Arkansas State and Life everything they
could handle. And most of the season they did it without star fullback
Morgan Findlay, who's back and reportedly 100-percent.
There are fantastic players on both sides of the ball in this game, guys
with realistic international and pro aspirations. And it should make for
arguably the most compelling match-up of any college playoff so far this