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Lindenwood escaped Davenport’s grasp for a 21-17 win Saturday in Grand Rapids, Mich. The Panthers led 17-14 with two minutes to play, and a Lincoln Magee intercept try, converted by reserve fullback Morgan Findlay, gave the Lions the road win.
"We’re a team that tries to play for 80, regardless if we’re playing good or bad – just persevere on and try to play for each other," said Lindenwood coach JD Stephenson.
"To be totally honest, I think we robbed it. It was Davenport’s match. They deserved to win it. They played a lot better than us. They played as a team, as opposed to us playing as a bunch of individuals."
Davenport drew first blood with a Brady Gent penalty midway through the first half, taking a 3-0 lead.
Magee was sent off for contact in the air a few minutes later, and down a man the Lions ran in the opening try. Lindenwood flyhalf Ben O’Donnell found a crease and darted into pay dirt following a series of penalties on Davenport. Lungi Tshuma converted, pushing the Lions up 7-3, which is how the half would end.
Findlay, Lindenwood’s best player who is returning from what was originally thought to be a season-ending injury, came on early in the second half and made an immediate impact. He stepped inside a Davenport defender in the attacking end and flung the ball to center Sione Fangahuia, who slid in for LU’s second score. Following the conversion, Lindenwood led 14-3.
Davenport pulled the game closer when wing Mason Baum chased down an enterprising chip kick from center Sondai Adjei in the try zone. Converted, the try saw the Panthers down four at 14-10.
The home team then took the lead when pressure from Davenport’s backline saw a misstep – a Lindenwood pass directly into the hands of Adjei, who raced in for a try. The conversion attempt was successful, and DU led 17-14.
Had Davenport been able to convert either one of two attacking scrums into points earlier in the half, Adjei’s try would have sealed the win. But Lindenwood, which was pushed around by the Panther pack in the first meeting this season, managed to steal the ball with its back against the wall.
"We were humiliated last time," said Stephenson. "They’ve got an amazing scrum, and that’s a testament to their coaches, but that’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time on this week was to shore up our set piece.
"I’m very happy with the guys’ performance today. I thought Matt Wirken and Jeremy Leber and his partner in crime Austin Tjierina were really good in the front row, and the guys who came in off the bench helped solidify that."
As it was, though, Lindenwood trailed by just three when a regrettable pass from Davenport’s scrumhalf floated into the hands of a streaking Magee in the 78th minute.
The loss drops Davenport to 0-5 in league play and lifts Lindenwood to 2-3.
Three of Davenport's losses have come by less than seven.