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A young Arkansas State side traveled to St. Charles, Mo. and beat Lindenwood 26-15 in front of a good-sized crowd Saturday at Harlen C. Hunter Stadium. With a Mid-South Conference Championship match against Life looming next weekend, the Red Wolves sent a second, but very good, side to suburban St. Louis.
Lindenwood struggled to mount much of an attack early on because of penalty trouble at the breakdown. The Lions were eager to contest for the ball at the tackle, but according to the ref, a little too eager.
Openside flanker Connor Cook took the shots at goal for Arkansas State and missed his first opportunity. He then got into a tussle with Lindenwood openside Tyler Black at a ruck. Black tugged at Cook’s dreadlocks and Cook retaliated with some fists and elbows. The altercation was missed by the referee, and after he sought the council of his assistant referee, no cards were levied.
The fact that both No. 7s were left on the field was good for the hundreds of high school players in the stands. Numerous teams from all over the midwest competing in a local tournament showed up for the game, and they were given a lesson on how to play openside by Cook and Black, who were the best players for their respective teams on the day. They were quick to the breakdown, stout in defense and solid with ball in hand with impressively high work rates.
Also impressive was the sheer physicality of the game. Both teams were shown yellow cards, Lindenwood’s coming near the end of the first half after repeated infringements at the breakdown and Arkansas State’s coming at the end of Lindenwood’s 10-minute disadvantage for a dangerous tackle.
Lindenwood eventually drew first blood when some hard-charging runs in the backline opened up space for fullback Morgan Findlay to score. Findlay’s conversion attempt hit the upright, leaving the Lions up 5-0.
Arkansas State nearly got on the board late in the first half off of a short range lineout following a Lindenwood penalty, but the Lions defense came up big and turned the Red Wolves over, securing a 5-0 halftime lead. ASU flyhalf Cody Crawford leveled the table at the onset of the second half with a try, which Cook converted, to put the visitors up 7-5.
The Red Wolves picked up the scoring pace from there, adding successive tries to take a 19-5 lead. The first was a point blank No. 8 pick from the back of a scrum, and the second was a little more exciting. Outside center Michael Baska made a break, threw a backhanded offloaded on a frozen rope back inside, and Paxton VanBaber showed his pace a phase later by piercing through the Lindenwood defense for the try.
Lindenwood answered back shortly after VanBaber’s try when a loose ball was flyhacked into the corner of the try zone and scored by a Lion. Findlay missed the difficult conversion, leaving the Red Wolves up two scores at 19-10.
Alex Goff iced the game by capping off a nice sequence of play off an attacking lineout, pushing Arkansas State’s lead to 26-10 following Cook’s conversion.
Findlay, who hadn’t made many plays since scoring the opening try, then started to find more work in attack. He made a darting break through ASU’s defense and offloaded inside to flanker Sebastian Kalm, but the pass bounced off Kalm’s face. Shortly thereafter, though, the Chilean U20 returned the favor by bowling over a defender and setting up Findlay for the game’s final try.
Lindenwood has one more game before the DI-AA playoffs – what should be a walk-over win over Kansas. And Arkansas State has just the Life match before the DI-A playoffs begin.