BOULDER, Colo. – Plenty of tread on the boots of the Lindenwood roster was earned in a recent trip that took the Lions south. Forty-five players competed over two matches in the 15s code and four sevens matches against New Orleans RFC and Louisiana State.
The quality and variety of rugby comes at a perfect time as Lindenwood preps not only for its Mid-South Conference schedule, but also this week’s Las Vegas Invitational – where the team will be playing in the elite college 7s bracket.
Due to its fairly isolated location, Lindenwood often struggles to find nonconference matches that make sense for the program both geographically and competitively. That’s why Lindenwood was pleased to schedule a match against 2014 DI Club National Champion runner-up New Orleans RFC.
“It was just a good fit for us competition-wise because we want to play the best,” Lindenwood Director of Rugby JD Stephenson said.
If competitive rugby is what the Lions wanted they were not disappointed. Although Lindenwood won both of its sevens contests as well as the 15s match, they did not come easy. In fact, NOLA caught the visitors off guard and raced to a 25-0 advantage by halftime. After flipping a switch or two, Lindenwood climbed back in the game, and squeaked out a 26-25 victory.
In a performance that Stephenson described as “gutsy,” the head coach added, “I’m not taking anything away from the win, but we have a lot to work on.”
A massive come-from-behind effort wasn’t needed versus the college side, but the following day’s win over LSU was physically demanding for the Lions, as well.
“It turned out LSU was just as physical as New Orleans, so we got beat up both games,” reflected Stephenson on his players’ effort over the weekend.
Stout as LSU was, Lindenwood was again able to earn a clean sweep by winning two more sevens games and defeating the Tigers, 38-10, over 80 minutes.
The demanding weekend of duel-code rugby was a creative way for the program to improve in all facets of its game during a spring that weighs heavier on 15s, but with an eye on May’s 2015 USA Rugby College 7s National Championship.
“It’s definitely difficult because there is a bit of a divide in 15s and sevens boys, and a difference in mindset and philosophies when it comes to attacking and defense,” Stephenson said of juggling the two codes.
“But at the end of the day, rugby is still rugby.”
Missing from the 216 minutes of rugby were a trio of influential players: full back Morgan Findlay, loose forward Sebastian Kalm, and AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American lock Michael Gierlach – each of whom are expected back from injury for Lindenwood’s Mid-South opener March 7 at Life University.