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In the second part of the home and away series against No. 8 Lindenwood, third-ranked Life held on and avoided going into extra time to defeat the Lions, 18-15. Life won the first meeting earlier this month by four points, 25-21. Lindenwood had the opportunity to push the game into overtime with a penalty kick with no time left, but the kick sailed wide left.
“At times, we played well,” Life head coach Tui Osbourne stated. “Our defense was good, but we conceded too many penalties that let them back into the game. A bit of a step back from last week’s game and the last time we played them. Obviously, we didn’t stick the game plan and that’s what happens. Against a good team, they will punish where you make mistakes and that’s what we did. We were kind of lucky to squeak that one out, but we will take win.”
The game began with each team’s flyhalf trading penalty kicks for a 3-3 tie. The Running Eagles’ Blane McIlroy and the Lion’s Mickey Bateman were each on point with their kicks. Life was first to put the ball over when starting with a five-meter lineout and the forwards settled the ball. Life switched fields with the flyhalf and got the ball out on the wing where fullback Mitch Wilson dotted it down for the 8-3 lead.
Penalty trouble by Life led Lindenwood to their first try of the match. After Life was yellow carded for a team infringement for not rolling away, the Lions took advantage with sustained pressure within the 22. Flanker Tom O’Connor broke the line ten meters out and cut to the outside to tie the game again at 8-8 at the half.
Coming out of the intermission, the set piece was again key to Life’s success. From a lineout around the 22, the forwards brought the ball closer to the try line. Life whipped the ball out wide and outside center Zander Van Schalkwyk carried the opposing center into the tryzone to extend the tally to 15-8.
Unfortunately for Lindenwood, the referee yellow carded the Lions for not releasing and McIlroy connected for three points. Once back at full strength, the Lions showed that they were still fighting. Exploiting a turnover by Life, Lions’ wing Alex Augspurg made break from 20 meters out and was tackled by a Life defender short of the line. After a quick pick and go, Augspurg finished the play with a pick and go for the score to cut the lead to three points, 18-15.
Lindenwood had the chance to extend the game into extra time when Life was called for not rolling away. With no time left, fullback Lungile Tshuma lined up the penalty kick, but the ball was just left of the left upright and Life improved to 3-0 in the conference with the 18-15 win.
“It was definitely a physical encounter,” Lindenwood head coach JD Stephenson said. “In attack, we were stifled by a stout defensive team that is Life. We tried to play a lot of territory on them and relied on some defensive lineouts, but their set piece was awesome. Like I said, it really was pretty much both teams getting inside the 22 and taking points... On our end, we lacked poise and execution and trying to force things that just don’t need to happen right away... When you play against Life, if you give them opportunities, they are going to exploit them and that’s what happened.”
Life will play Davenport next weekend in their last game before the playoffs begin. Speaking on the game, Osbourne said, “Obviously, we have to be consistent in the rucks, stay out of it. Try to get our penalty count low, lower than last week’s game. Davenport going to be the same intensity and physicality that Lindenwood brought to us and they will be good at home. We are looking forward to it and it will be a tough match again.”