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With what was supposed to be the final Mid-South Conference match between Lindenwood and Davenport, turned into a 36-14 D1A playoff victory for the Lions. After the D1A bracket revealed the two teams would meet in the first round, the coaches agreed that the squads would play on Saturday then have two weeks before the winner would play Life on April 22nd.
In Grand Rapids, Mich. at the Farmers Insurance Complex, Lindenwood fought back from an early deficit to score six tries in route to the win. The Lions’ forwards stepped up to score five tries, which included a hat trick performance by lock Chris Schoeman. With the win, Lindenwood will rest and prepare for the Round of Eight match versus Life University in Marietta, Ga. on April 22nd.
It wasn’t the prettiest of victories, but Lindenwood head coach Josh Macy was pleased with the result. “We played really well in spurts. We tried to stay patient in defense and wait for Davenport to give us the ball back. We didn’t get great performances, but it was good to see other guys pick up the slack.”
“Defensively, we were really comfortable on our feet,” Macy continued. “When it was our time to attack, we did a great job touching all parts of the field and making big carries when we needed to.”
Davenport’s Reece Czarnecki got the party started in the 11th minute after the ball was spun wide to the wing for the try. The conversion was good for a Panther 7-0 lead. Davenport retained much of the possession in the half, but the Lion defense would not break. It wasn’t until 24 minutes later that the ball crossed the try line again.
In the 35th minute, Lindenwood ended its scoring drought with a Wesley White eightman pick to score in the corner. The Lions used the momentum to dot the ball down almost immediately taking advantage of a Davenport turnover. Reserve Colten Hernandez grabbed the pill and raced into scoring position. After a Panther penalty, flyhalf Nick Feakes quick-tapped finding an opening for the try. Both conversions were wide, but the Lions were up 10-7 at the half.
Using the energy from the end of the first half, Lindenwood kept up the pace and Schoeman scored three tries in 15 minutes to open up the second. In the 42 minute, line breaks by Jack Huckstep and Jeremy Leber paved the way for Schoeman’s first try and a White pass on a counterattack led to the lock’s second score just three minutes later.
Schoeman’s third try was set up by a long gainer by Feakes and a kick ahead that set up a lineout deep in Davenport’s territory. Schoeman wrangled in the ball off the set piece and powered over the line for the hat trick.
The Panthers would not lay down and continued to battle. In the 65th minute, Davenport capitalized on a Lions’ error for the try by Kevin Stachler. Davenport attempted to dig deeper into the Lindenwood lead, but a Hernandez maul try in the 71st minute shut the door on the match for a 36-14 playoff victory.
Panthers head coach Harry King boiled the match down to the capitalization of mistakes. “Lindenwood capitalized on our mistakes whereas when we had the opportunity to capitalize on theirs, we didn’t... They were quick to run and broke a lot of tackles, just a quality side.”
“It wasn’t a pretty win, but we dug our heels in and fought when we needed to,” Lindenwood flyhalf Nick Feakes told Rugby Today. “We didn’t have much of the ball in the first half, but we managed to come into the sheds at halftime up 10-7 and I think that made a huge difference. We knew we needed to tighten our game up after that and we came out and scored a few tries in the second half to finish it off.”
With the first round win, Lindenwood can recover and get ready over the next two weeks to solve the riddle that is the Running Eagles of Life. “We played them twice already this season,” Macy concluded. “For us, we are good at rugby, but we have to take simple options and mitigate risk when you play Life. They make to pay for your mistakes. We play them at our best when we just doing the next job and doing the simple things right.”