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Lindenwood University fought off all competitors to win the U.S. leg of the 2016 Red Bull Uni 7s at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo. on Thursday. With a 26-10 cup final victory over Arizona State, the Lions have qualified to the world university tournament in Bath, England on September 17th to challenge teams from the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, Japan, and Brazil for the crown. The cup final will played in front of a crowd of 14,000 strong before a Bath Rugby Aviva Premiership match.
With the opportunity to represent their country and university, the Lindenwood Lions are proud for the chance to play in England. “The boys are excited because they see themselves as representing the United States,” the 7s coach Jimmy Harrison remarked. “It’s pretty near and dear to their hearts because if they weren’t born here, they have been here for four or five years. They are eager to get training and eager to go overseas and take every opportunity they can at the tournament.”
For the one-day tournament at Infinity Park, an eight-team field consisting of Arizona State, Clemson, Lindenwood, Colorado, Denver, Utah, Wyoming, and Utah State battled for the trophy. At the end of pool play, an undefeated Lindenwood club played Utah in the semifinals where the Lions needed overtime to come back to win 17-12. Arizona State advanced to the finals after disposing Wyoming, 36-14, in the second semifinal. In the final, the Lions capped off their excellent tournament with a dominant second half performance over a stout Arizona State club to win 26-10.
After assessing the game film, Harrison said, “teams like Utah and Arizona State were very well prepared with their set piece and their restart. Utah pretty much owned us in the set piece and they won every set piece in the first half putting us on defense for the entire seven minutes. Defensively, we were good until we got tired when we started breaking our connections. The attackers from Utah and Arizona State were able to exploit a lot of those holes and we can’t really afford that in the upcoming tournament.”
Coach Harrison told Rugby Today that the key to winning the tournament was managing all 12 players to stay fresh for the final. “We were able to save a lot of players and it definitely showed in the second half of the final. [Arizona State] only had 10 players and it made a big difference. It definitely showed in the first couple minutes of the second half when we had our three consecutive tries.”
For Lindenwood, the tournament victory to a total team effort, but a few players made a notable impact. “Mickey Bateman had a great tournament, very good footwork and speed helps. Defensively, we had Wes Parker and Sam Chapman. Both of those guys didn’t miss tackles and we put them on the wing so it made it very good for us.” With Sebastian Kalm eligible to play, the reigning PRO Rugby MVP made his presence known with his considerable experience and ability.
Preparation for England in a few weeks has already started with an emphasis on the set piece, passing, and fitness. “We are going to keep the same team because, as a coach, I feel like those boys earned it. They laid their heart on the line for the whole day. Despite an injury happening, I expect all 12 players to return to represent Lindenwood.”
With teams coming together from five continents, the best university talent in the world will be coming together in England. “We are expecting to see the best competition possible,” Harrison said. “We have to play our game. What we want to do is possess the ball as much as possible and play stonewall defense. Our objective is to not have our sweeper make a tackle. Our six boys up front have to be a stonewall and no line breaks. With top competition, we have to play top-notch defense. At that level, everybody can attack and we are really going to focus on defense, our set piece, and our possession game.”
Harrison stated that the senior leadership has to blend with the youth to excel in England. “Our senior boys like Mickey [Bateman], Sebastian [Kalm] and Wes [Parker] stepped up substantially in the last tournament. We’ll need the likes of sophomore Christian Rodriguez, who scored the game winner against Utah. We’ll expect sophomores Sam Chapman and Travis Heer and freshman Wesley White to start gelling with the seniors and become one team.”
The global Red Bull Uni 7s is set for September 17th at the at the Recreation Ground in Bath, England.
Lindenwood Lions 7s Squad
- Wes Parker
- Sebastian Kalm
- Alex Augspurg
- Giovanni Falco
- Nick Feakes
- Mickey Bateman
- Sam Chapman
- Wes White
- Travis Heer
- Ty Turner
- Tadhg Leader
- Cristian Rodriguez