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Lindenwood repeated to win the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia, besting rival Life 21-12 in a contentious final. Wesley White scored twice in the final and was awarded the Mark Dombroski Award as the tournament’s most valuable player.  

Both Lindenwood and Life earned their way to the final with five consecutive wins. In pool play, the Lions crushed Temple 38-0 and handled Virginia Tech, 32-5. Clemson was a much tougher challenge, pushing the defending champs to the brink in a 24-17 tussle.

Life throttled Colorado 36-0 and Indiana 43-7 in the pool stages, but the real feat was besting Cal on the last play of the game, 19-17. It was Life’s first-ever win over Cal at the CRC.

The Golden Bears managed a two-score lead in the second half, but an indescribably thrilling exchange of possessions and chaos paved the way for Life’s second score with just under two minutes to go, coming by way of George Phelan. The conversion pulled the Running Eagles within five. As the bell rung, Life’s talismanic Harley Wheeler crossed for the leveler. The conversion from just to the left of the post was on the mark for Life’s win at the death.

The loss, Penn State and UCLA drawing in a Pool B thriller while also picking up two wins against their pool mates, and Kutztown’s superior point differential saw the five-time champion Golden Bears miss the quarterfinals for the first-time in CRC history.

In the quarterfinals, Life walked to a 33-7 defeat of UCLA, while Lindenwood narrowly escaped Iona. Santi Mascolo put the Gaels up with Santi Mascolo dotting down and converting the try himself. The defensive abilities of both teams delivered no more points in the first half, but Iona finally relented after Mascolo was lost to a yellow card in the second half, making way for a 12-0 Lions’ run. Iona had a promising possession with the chance to regain the lead at the death, but a ruck penalty ended the campaign.

In the semis, Life beat a hobbled Kutztown, 30-1,2 without star DMontae Noble. He came on in the second half, but heavily taped and without his usual burst. Life had a tougher time with a well-organized Navy side, but prevailed 19-5.   

In the final, Lindenwood struck first. Duncan Van Schalkwyk lost the ball in contact, and the Lions raced the other way with a series of offloads as Life scrambled to get back in defense. Eventually it was Wesley White winning the race to the try zone.

A Life turnover led to Lindenwood’s second try, too. The Running Eagles were tackled into touch on one sideline, and then Life tackled down on the other, opening up a free lane. Marnus Spangenberg did the dotting down. Both scores were converted, putting Lindenwood up 14-0.

The Running Eagles caught a break when Nicholas Taylor was sent off for a high tackle at the tail end of the first half. Harley Wheeler cashed in, stepping inside his opposite before splashing in to get Life on the board.

Wheeler picked up the double less than a minute into the second half. Ryan Rees scooped up a loose ball deep in the Lindenwood end and shipped it to the wing. Life converted the second score, leaving Lindenwood up 14-12.

White answered back to secure a brace of his own, scoring from long range. Again, the scoring possession came from an uncharacteristic Life error, this time a knock-on by Julian Roberts. White was put well into space and finished the score. The conversion made it a two-score game at 21-12.

Life desperately clawed for the ball in the breakdown with time winding down. They finally earned a penalty, and Daemon Torres seemed sure to cut the deficit with maybe enough time on the clock for another restart, but Tyren Al-Jiboori poked the ball free at the try line, finalizing Lindenwood’s repeat.