It has been a busy, competition filled March so far for No. 6 Lindenwood. Its latest escapade was a March 11, 32-10, win over Mid-South rival No. 10 Davenport. It was the only conference action of the weekend after the matchup between No. 8 Arkansas State and No. 18 Clemson was called off due to weather concerns.
“The decision to cancel the game was reached with consideration for the traveling team, Clemson, and from a player safety view,” said Arkansas State’s executive director of Student Health and Wellness Matt Huckaby. “The forecast calls for a combination of 30-degree temperatures, unpredictable weather, wet conditions and a strong north wind.”
The second game between the two teams is still scheduled for March 25 in South Carolina. The Tigers will host No. 2 Life on March 18, while the Red Wolves will host Davenport on the same day.
#6 Lindenwood 32-10 #10 Davenport
Following a successful campaign in the Las Vegas Invitational and a draw a day later with Arkansas State, the Lions were quick to pounce from the opening kick off versus the Panthers.
8-Man Wesley White scored on the first play for Lindenwood off a clearance kick down the right side. It gave the Lions early momentum, and a follow up try by Michael de Waal gave the team a 10-0 lead in the first 20 minutes.
Davenport did not stay down for long thanks to lock Mike Lau, who touched down in the 29th minute. Following a yellow card to Lindenwood’s Nick Feakes, the Panthers took advantage with a try by loose-head prop Connor Schilling to tie the game.
Coming out of the break, however, it was all Lindenwood on the scoreboard. In the span of 15 minutes the Lions made two successful tries, a conversion and penalty kick to help put the game our of reach for good. It was 25-10 until a last-minute score by Christian Rodriguez.
“Our confidence on attack is growing week-to-week. I’m impressed with how well we are pressuring the whole field and getting more consistent in our decision making every week,” said head coach Josh Macy.
Defensively, Macy highlighted the play of de Waal specifically by being coolheaded and becoming a turnover machine. That mentality has quickly made the freshman flanker an impact player for the Lions.
James Lillis was also a notable individual by Macy during the game. The junior lock earned a start for the first time and made his presence known almost immediately in the second row.
“We started slow and let them out of trouble easy with a couple unfortunate penalties in our own twenty two,” Lillis added. “But once we started attacking we were able to play how we wanted to play and protected the Charles Labry shield.”
The Charles Labry Memorial Shield honors the Lindenwood rugby player who passed away in October of 2014. This was the fourth time the team played for the shield in his memory. The game naturally garners a lot of emotion for the Lions, and the nerves were noticeable walking onto the pitch according to Lillis. It did not effect the squad for long though in a game that means so much to the Lindenwood men every year.
“His family flew over from France for the match, addressed the team in the locker room before the game, and presented the shield to our players afterward,” Macy commented. “You could see how much it meant to them that we honored their son’s name and watching them well up with thankful tears as they hugged our players post-match was probably one of my most memorable moments a coach.”
“It’s always a tough fixture with so many emotions in the air,” senior fullback Lungi Tshuma added. “We are however always happy to come out on top for not only the conference, but the people we were remembering today. Credit to Davenport for making us work hard for it.”
Davenport continues to search for its identity in the spring season. In the second half the Panthers utilized fresh legs with four substitutions. Unfortunately it was not enough to help narrow the deficit in the team’s third consecutive loss. Despite this, the team is showing less costly errors as of late. But the lack of an active winter season cannot be an excuse for much longer.
Schilling remains a leader on the front line in addition to the chemistry of Brady Gent and Noah Zomberg, the offense is struggling to finish. 8-Man All-American Dominique Bailey and Lau also continue to be leaders on the field. But overall it is not translating in to points, or a full 80 minutes. The Panthers remain winless in 2017 and now look in to next week against Arkansas State to bring it all together on the field.
Lindenwood meanwhile has a couple weeks before their next conference matchup with Life. In the meantime the focus shifts locally when the Lions meet up with Memphis this upcoming week at a neutral site on March 18.