BOULDER, Colo. – The weekly Mid-South showdown heads to St. Charles, Mo., this weekend where Lindenwood gets a second crack at Life just two weeks after falling to the Running Eagles, 25-21.
Life plays the role of visitor for the first time in conference play this season, and should have plenty of confidence circulating throughout the team’s bus on the ride to Lindenwood. D1A’s newly minted No. 1-ranked team is coming off of a dominating performance resulting in a 32-0 shutout of Arkansas State in the Huckaby Cup.
The blowout victory is a far cry from the two wins Life has earned to open Mid-South play. Wins over Davenport and Lindenwood only saw the Running Eagles win by three and four points, respectively.
“It’s exciting,” Life Head Coach Tui Osborne said of the hotly-contested battles within the conference. “These are the kind of matches we like because it pushes the guys to perform better and teaches them how to manage a game.”
As far as the surprise margin of victory in a rivalry match typically known for close encounters, Osborne credits the one-sided result against Arkansas State to improved play from his back three and a number of freshmen who have begun to cement themselves as part of the match-day 23.
The 32-0 win was even more impressive given that backs captain Harley Davidson was withheld from the Huckaby Cup. Davidson, maybe the most lethal line-breaker for the Running Eagles, picked up a minor injury March 7 against Lindenwood, but is expected to suit up against the Lions Saturday.
A 20-16 win over Davenport last weekend improved Lindenwood to 1-1 in the Mid-South, and puts the Lions in position to move into a tie for first with an upset win over Life.
Lindenwood have a group of forwards that are both athletic and physical, most notably Mike Gierlach, Sebastian Kalm, and Tamatasi Paogofie-Buyten. Coach JD Stephenson has a plethora of capable backs to plug in as he sees fit, but AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American center James Poli garnishes a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
Osborne and his coaching staff know full well the challenge that awaits Life.
“We want to play better than we did the previous week,” said the head coach. “This Lindenwood side will be strong at home, especially at home.
“Our first goal is to try and beat them with a physicality that we showed them a couple of weeks ago.”
Other than matching the physical style of play seen in the March 7 match between the top-five teams, the Running Eagles are still working towards a goal of playing a high standard of rugby for a full 80-minute match. According to Coach Osborne, the D1A’s top side has played 60 minutes of Life-quality rugby – at most.