Lindenwood fend off challenging field for Red Bull Uni 7s title

D1A Rugby: Lindenwood fend off challenging field for Red Bull Uni 7s title

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Lindenwood University will head to Bath, England, to compete in the Sept. 17 global final of Red Bull Uni 7s after winning the American leg of the worldwide event at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., Thursday.

A perfect 3-0 run in pool play that included a 40-0 hammering of Clemson advanced the Lions to the Semifinals, where they squared off against Utah. A trip to England to compete against some of the world’s best college clubs seemed all but lost in the Semifinals when the Utes jumped out to a 12-0 lead. However, Lindenwood stormed back to tie the match, and eventually put one over Utah in overtime to move into the Cup Final.

Arizona State was the second team to earn a place in the Final thanks to its impressive, 36-14, win over Wyoming that improved the Sun Devils to 4-0 on the day. The 22-point victory also produced a rematch of the Quarterfinals of the 2016 College 7s National Championships in which Arizona State humbled Lindenwood to the tune of 24-0.

With a trip to England on the line, the Lions again found themselves trailing in the opening half. Tries by Connor McRae and Ryan Spiwak helped the Sun Devils to a 10-7 halftime lead.

Lindenwood proved its resiliency for a second consecutive match, and used tries by PRO Rugby’s inaugural MVP, Sebastian Kalm, and 2015 Dave Sitton College 7s Most Valuable Player Mickey Bateman to secure its 26-10 championship win over Arizona State.

“We ran up against a very good Arizona State side in the Quarterfinals at Nationals and they were the ones that knocked us out of the competition,” Bateman recalled of the disappointing finish in Cary, N.C. “To be honest, there is no better feeling than coming out here and saving our best game ’til last. I’m glad we got another opportunity to go up against them in a knockout situation, and this time we came out on top. Next time they might come out on top – who knows?”

With a victory at the United States leg of Red Bull Uni 7s in the kit bag, the Lions can now begin to look ahead to their next challenge.

“Now that we’ve won this we can start to enjoy that feeling, and begin to think about how we’re going to go about winning this UK tournament,” Bateman added. “It’s just going to be one step at a time, and the next step is going over to the UK and giving this tournament over there a proper crack.”

The 5-0 run at Infinity Park not only gives the boys from St. Charles, Mo., something to look forward to next month, but an opportunity to propel Lindenwood to its best 15s season yet. While Bateman admits several key pieces to its 15s team – especially in the tight five – are not a part of the program’s sevens setup, he thinks the tournament victory could make a massive, positive impact looking towards the Mid-South season in the spring.

“What you’re looking at here is the backbone of our 15s team, so winning a competition like this and getting into winning ways can only do good for us moving forward,” Bateman concluded.