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Lindenwood University’s dominance over the Penn Mutual College Rugby Championship Qualifier at the Las Vegas Invitational was complete with a 29-0 shutout of Clemson University in Saturday’s cup final at Sam Boyd Stadium in Henderson, Nev. The Lions were in control from start to finish limiting the Tigers’ possession to five times all game.
“We played pretty well,” Lindenwood head coach Josh Macy said. “We got off to a quick start and that’s what we targeted. We just want to jump on people. We wanted to make sure we played in the air so Sam Chapman went up and won the first kickoff. We went wide and scored. It was exactly what we talked about. I think nailing your first job is how you start he game off. Sam is a sophomore and made a big play.”
Lindenwood started the game quick attacking the Clemson front with speed and strength. Sam Chapman broke for a big gain to the corner and Mickey Chapman finished the play with a try. On the ensuing restart, the Lions recovered the ball and Michael Baska found the endzone to go up, 10-0.
Clemson finally got its hands on the ball, but was stopped at midfield. Lindenwood earned the ball back, but a bad pass was almost picked off by Liam Helstrom. Off the penalty, Lindenwood regrouped and Alex Augsburg scored from 30 meters out to lead 15-0 at the half.
The Tigers began the second half with their first productive possession working the ball methodically downfield. The phase play was all for naught as Clemson was stopped short of the endzone with a penalty. With the pill, Lindenwood moved itself out of danger and Christian Rodriguez put Deion Mikesell into a gap for the try. Nick Feakes’ conversion made the score, 22-0.
Clemson attempted to get back into the game, but a penalty off the kickoff allowed Feakes to score putting the Lions up, 29-0. The Tigers didn’t stop until the final whistle as Lindenwood kicked the ball into touch to celebrate as the 2017 LVI CRC Champions.
Asked to comment after the game, Clemson head coach Steve Lynch stated, “Lindenwood is a hell of a team. We knew they were going to give us a huge challenge. They have great structure. They have the same style of play that we do and they just have guys who have been doing in longer together.
“Our guys came out with a lot of heart,” Lynch added. “I think we challenged really well in the second half and we showed in the first four minutes of the half what we are capable of doing. We had little mistakes and that comes down to experience. I thought they played a great 5-0 to get here and to play against a great D1A team like Lindenwood, we were happy that a D1A Mid-South team is going on to the CRCs representing us. I’m proud of my team.”
On shutting down the Clemson attack, Macy said, “Last night, we watched the tape and saw that we could get a little bit earlier width from our defense knowing Clemson liked to play a real strong wide game. Just having Nick Feakes at the back just barking really quickly at that player to get him wide really put us in a comfortable position after they spread the ball around the field. We were the more mobile of the two teams so we didn’t really have a problem meeting them is that area, but we executed our tackles once we got there.”
The Tigers had difficulty with Lindenwood’s pace of play and athleticism. “We played some very good teams this week,” Macy exclaimed. “Central Washington is similar to Lindenwood, but Lindenwood is a step above. Just on their athletes and their communication and I think that frustrated our attack a little bit. We moved the ball well from touch line to touch line, there just wasn’t space there like there was in the first five matches... The better team won today.
Michael Baska earned Macy’s Man of the Match. “He won some balls in the air, moved the ball really well. He is a good linking piece, he will make big plays when he needs to, but he’s really comfortable as a link player.”
When asked what the LVI tournament boiled down to for Lindenwood, Macy said, “Mindset. Even with our 15s mindset, we are trying to develop calmer heads and playing a more reasonable game of rugby. They executed that this weekend. They moved the ball and stayed patient.”
When asked if CRCs is next for Lindenwood, Macy simply responded, “We play Arkansas State tomorrow.”