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Lindenwood went 5-0 en route to a title of the Notre Dame Invitational 7s tournament Saturday, beating Davenport twice and trouncing Western Michigan, Illinois and Notre Dame. The Lions beat those three teams by a combined score of 120-14.
The first match of the tournament saw the two favorites, No. 17 Lindenwood and No. 16 Davenport, play in a sloppy contest filled with knock-ons caused by the early morning dew. The Lions eked out a 14-12 win.
Davenport didn’t lose to anyone else in the tournament, but did tie Western Michigan 17-17. The Panthers, mired in a serious 15s campaign that has them playing in the rough and tumble Rugby East, only managed five 7s trainings before Saturday.
Lindenwood, on the other hand, is taking fall 7s much more seriously than last season, when they played a split 15s schedule in the Heart of America conference.
“We learned a lot last year. We had all these conference games to play in the fall. This year’s different – our conference games are all in the spring, so we made the decision to pull all our top 7s guys,” said Lindenwood coach Ron Laszewski. “We’re playing 15s friendlies just for development of the younger guys, but the top 7s guys are working hard with Seru Rabeni.”
Rabeni is a new addition to the coaching staff. A former 7s and 15s Fijian international, Rabeni has taken over the 7s program.
In the final, both team’s stars sat out. Lindenwood’s Morgan Findlay picked up a tight groin early in the day and rested during the semifinals and final, and Davenport’s JP Eloff had a small nag cause him to sit out of the final. Lindenwood also didn’t play with heralded freshman Sione Fangaiuiha all day, as he decided not to test a recovering PCL tear just yet.
The Lions raced out to a big lead, scoring four tries to Davenport’s one in the first half. The Panthers and Lions traded blows in the second half, with Davenport scoring one more than Lindenwood after the break, but the damage had already been done.
“Tyler Black was the man in the final,” said Laszewski. “He took that game over. He had two tries and probably eight tackle poaches. He was just the man.”
Speedster Mathius Marris also came up big with some scorching runs. A track convert in his second year playing rugby, Harris the light is starting to switch on for Harris.
“[He] broke their backs early. Turned on that speed of his and showed his heels,” said Laszewski. “He’s really an asset for us.”
Up next week for Lindenwood is the final Allied Rugby Conference event in Norman, Okla., where the Lions will likely run up against No. 13 Oklahoma.
34-24 Davenport - final
24-7 Western Michigan
48-0 Notre Dame