LAFAYETTE, Colo. – A Mid-South rivalry will be one of four April 22 D1A Rugby Quarterfinal matches, as Lindenwood University is preparing for a trip to Marietta, Ga., to face Life University.
Given how hotly contested games in the Mid-South Conference are, the two quarterfinalists can still be deemed rivals despite Lindenwood still seeking the program’s first win over the Running Eagles. Life has beaten the Lions 10 times over the four seasons, including twice in the playoffs.
“All you can do is approach each game independently, bringing with it lessons from the last,” Lindendwood Head Coach Josh Macy said of his team’s preparation. “The guys are doing the work. Our boys are great at seeing each game with a fresh outlook and spirits are high.”
To be fair, Lindenwood has come close to knocking off Life, something most teams can’t say. Two regular season games between the two were separated by just seven combined points in 2015. In 2016, the Lions clawed back from a 16-0 hole to take a 21-16 lead in the second half, only to fall, 23-21, thanks to a converted try on the match’s final play.
Life will not have played a game for three weeks when it steps onto the field with Lindenwood, while the Lions will have gone two weeks without a match come April 22. Lindenwood’s April 8 Mid-South finale against Davenport was ultimately deemed a D1A Playoff game when it was realized the two would be paired the following week in the opening round of the postseason. In the end, the Lions prevailed over the Panthers, 36-14.
Regardless of layoff times for both quarterfinalists, neither side has been spending the past weeks nursing injuries and huddled inside a film room. The two Mid-South squads know each other well enough to understand Saturday’s bout will be a physical one, so they’ve made sure to fit in contact during playoff preparation.
“It’s nice to be able to recharge after a win and a long season, but we ultimately moved on to this match,” Macy said of the additional prep time. “We were able to add in a few more contact sessions to aid us in our execution.”
The Running Eagles, meanwhile, have been spending plenty of time with strength and conditioning coach James Pail, while also putting in shifts against Life University’s senior club side in order to keep their tackling form.
Life narrowly protected its home turf during the team’s first meeting of the season, staving off Lindenwood, 24-18. Surprisingly, the rematch in St. Charles, Mo., wasn’t as competitive. Regardless of their March 25 matchup that Life won by 22 points, the Running Eagles don’t seem to be putting much credence in that outcome.
“The game was a month ago and the teams are really in different places now than they were then,” explained Life Head Coach Scott Lawrence. “Hard to say we’d replicate much other than the basics remain the same in any game, regardless of the tactical plan.”
Any college rugby fan won’t want to miss the match, which is being broadcast at gifttimerugby.com, due to some of the mouth-watering individual matchups that will take place. Two of college rugby’s best front rowers will be in action in Lindenwood’s Chance Wenglewski and Life’s Alex Maughan. Lorenzo Thomas is a capped Eagle who’s likely to be in the No. 13 jumper for the Lions. Across the field from him will be All-American and Man of the Match at the 2016 D1A National Championship game Harley Davidson. On the outside, Deion Mikesell and Harley Wheeler are two of the hardest running wingers in the college game.
The winner of the April 22 all-Mid-South quarterfinal, which will kick off at 3 p.m. ET, will play the team that emerges from a Quarterfinal pitting No. 3 BYU versus No. 7 Indiana.