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No. 11 Lindenwood erased a six-point deficit in the second half to came back to defeat conference rival and seventh-ranked Davenport, 20-16, on under the lights on Saturday evening in St. Charles, Mo. The Lions defense shut out Panthers in the second half to bring the second annual Charles Labry Memorial Shield home.
Down by six points at halftime, Lindenwood head coach JD Stephenson said, “I had a look at the scoreboard and saw the missed opportunities that could have been there. If you don’t knock on the ball, if we tighten things up, we had five turnovers in the first half. We took a deep breath and we took some control from our key guys. I asked our leaders to step up and execute.”
“Defensive lineouts went really well and scrums were awesome and we started to play a little bit smarter tactically. We asked our #10 (Mickey Bateman) to use his foot a little more and kick us out of trouble as opposed to running it. Just tighten up the way played in the second half, we were fortunate enough to come home with a positive result for us. In all honesty, it could have gone either way.”
Davenport took the early 5-0 lead when hooker Gabe Sochanek broke the line from an inside ball by flyhalf JP Eloff. Brought down inside five-meter line, inside center Mike Houston capped off the play by driving over the line to score the try. Eloff made the conversion and the subsequent penalty kick to increase the advantage to 10-0.
The Lions would roar back to tie the match at 10-10 with back-to-back tries. Lindenwood picked up the pressure and at the 25th minute, captain/lock Matt Gierlach found space on the outside to score in the corner. Ten minutes later, eightman Sebastian Kalm broke a 40-meter run from a lineout to beat the opposing fullback for the try. The Panthers answered with two Eloff penalty kicks to give Davenport the 16-10 halftime lead.
Lindewood focused on defense in the second half and shut down Davenport’s offensive opportunities. The Lions grabbed their first lead of the day when after sustained pressure, the ball went out to the backs and fullback Gabe Farley bested two defenders to corner for the try from 20 meters out. Reserve wing Lunaile Tshuma nailed the conversion from the sideline for the one point lead, 17-16. Tshuma added a penalty kick to cushion the advantage to 20-16 and the defense took over for the victory.
Coach Stephenson remarked on the play of his forwards, especially his eightman. “Sebastian Kalm was extraordinary. He led by example in attack and defense.Tamatasi Paogofie-Buyten, played great and his work rate was phenomenal. A big mention to the front row and the scrum, which has kept us in the game for two weeks now. I think it was a very good team performance.”
Davenport head coach James Wood echoed the same sentiment regarding Lindenwood’s No. 8, “Kalm had a heck of a day. A hard runner, he gave us fits when he would find himself out in the back line somewhere. He would come through off set pieces and open play. I know a couple of times he would come rambling through there and gave us some issues. He was a pretty big difference maker for them. It was pretty evenly matched, maybe a difference in styles in some respects. Easily it could have gone either way. The timing of when they put things together was pretty on point.”
Coach Wood remarked on his team’s play by saying, “I thought it went pretty well for the most part. The guys might not agree, but when they go back and look at the film, I thought we played a pretty good game overall. Minus how we started the second half, Lindenwood did a good job pinning us down in our own end and we struggled to clear the ball. You can only it that for so long until it takes a toll. They will put points on the board if you spend enough time down there. I was happy with our defense. It took 15 minutes before they could finally get over the line, but again, it takes a lot out of you playing that much defense that close to your goal line. Minus that, the rest of the game looked pretty good for us.”
As the game that decides the home of the Charles Labry Memorial Shield, Wood said that, “The game has a different feel it. Both teams are pretty invested into it even though it’s been around a short period of time. The guys come into it fired up and you can see the difference. It will be interesting going forward how it all plays out, but so far it’s a battle out there. It adds a little bit of incentive to the game.”