BOULDER, Colo. – Life’s two regular season meetings against Lindenwood last year produced two victories, but only by a combined seven points. The close head-head encounters during conference play made the Running Eagles’ Feb. 27 45-15 win over the Lions a bit surprising.
The opening exchanges had the look of battles from 2015, with Lindenwood having no trouble matching the physicality of Life. After Sam Cowley’s opening try, Lion winger Lungile Tshuma got his side on the board with a penalty kick.
Harley Davidson, playing openside flanker after years getting behind defenses from Life’s back line, scored the final try of the opening half to bring the score to 14-3 at the break.
Lindenwood had no answer for the Running Eagles in the second half, though. Cody Melphy, a sophomore who arrived in Marietta, Ga., from the Glendale Raptors, scored his first of four tries four minutes into the second half.
“Through the flow of the game and a couple good bounces my way I was able to have the success I did,” Melphy graciously said of his first Mid-South match. “Without my teammates and the hard work of everyone on my team, I would never be able to have that.”
The center admits feeling a little tension ahead of his first Mid-South fixtures, but the team’s hard work over the last several months put him at ease come kickoff.
“The lead up to Saturday was definitely nerve racking,” admitted Melphy. “When it came game time, I know we were ready from the preparations all pre-season that we had done. Coach Lawrence prepared us both mentally and physically for this clash of titans and first Mid-South Conference game.”
Life built its lead to 38-10 before front-rower Jeremy Leber went over the line for what appeared to be the final score of the game, but the Running Eagles had other thoughts.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Lions suffered a knock-on giving Life a solid platform to work off. Center Zander Van Schalkwyk’s break off the set scrum put Lindenwood on its heels, and fly half Blane Mcllroy found a hard-charging Melphy, who dotted down for a fourth time.
The win no doubt proves Life is equipped for a fourth consecutive run at a D1A National Championship Final, but they know the Mid-South is no cake-walk and fully expect a much stiffer encounter when it travels to St. Charles, Mo.. for a March 19 rematch with the Lions.
“They are a very physical and skilled team,” Melphy said of Lindenwood. “I think it could have been a much closer game if they had limited their own turnovers. I know the next game will be completely different, and they will come out even hungrier.”