BOULDER, Colo. – Lindenwood’s two-match trip to California ended in a split for the Lions after narrowly falling to No. 1 Saint Mary’s and coasting in its win over No. 20 Santa Clara.
On a wet and slippery afternoon in Moraga, Calif., it was the visiting team that advanced to a 10-0 lead following a try from captain Sebastian Kalm and five points off the boot of fly half Tadhg Leader. The Gaels would get themselves on the scoreboard before the end of the half with a converted Aaron Matthews try, but it was Lindenwood’s effort on defense that was the story of the first 40 minutes.
“Defensively it was all heart for our players,” Lindenwood Head Coach JD Stephenson said. “The coaches are proud of the performance they put out there.”
As the rain continued to fall, knock-ons became more prevalent and footing on the pitch was less reliable. For two teams that prefer to move the ball fast and wide, neither got into a rhythm on attack.
“The wet weather inhibited both sides to move the ball as well as we would have both liked,” explained Stephenson. “However, it was clear that Saint Mary’s was still able to execute ball movement and their attack – a testament to a very good side.”
Saint Mary’s acknowledged the rain did hinder its preferred gameplan, but believe Lindenwood’s athletes had just as much to say in regard to disrupting offensive flow.
“There were two aspects of play we had hoped to employ in attack and never did – not even close,” Saint Mary’s Head Coach Tim O’Brien said. “I don’t think that was related to the conditions, it was related to the fact that the Lindenwood squad is loaded with beasts.”
An unconverted try from Tommy Wallace opened the second frame and gave Saint Mary’s its first lead of the day, 12-10. The lead didn’t last long, as Leader split the uprights for his second penalty to bring his side back on top.
In what might have been the turning point of the match, a slippery kick ahead somehow found the arms of Charlie Loudon, who made one defender miss and dotted down for a try that, again, went unconverted. The Gaels would add one more score to prevail over Lindenwood, 24-13, in what was a much closer encounter than the teams’ 2014 D1A Semifinal matchup.
“Saturday was a challenge, but that’s what made the day enjoyable,” added O’Brien. “Most players and teams become better with match play and constructive training sessions under their belts, and Saint Mary’s College is no different.”
With less than 24 hours until its next game against a Canterbury D1A Top 20 team, the Lions had to lick their wounds in a hurry.
“Mentally the players were switched on as it was an opportunity for those players who were on the bench or out of the 23 to stake a claim on selections moving forward,” Stephenson said.
Against Santa Clara, several Lindenwood players stood out in the 62-12 win. Eight different players got over the try line, while Morgan Findlay and Giovanni Falco each scored doubles.
“The scoreline wasn’t indicative of the match,” pointed out Stephenson. “It was a hard-fought battle against a very well coached side that gave an 80-minute performance.”
The Lions return home with one more win and one more loss on their record, but saw 26 players earn at least 50 minutes of match time, and some players playing up to 150 minutes.