Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara await challenge from Lindenwood

D1A Rugby: Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara await challenge from Lindenwood
Photo Credit: Karen Drinkwater

BOULDER, Colo. – Coming off its 2015 College 7s National Championship, Lindenwood is out to prove it is one of the best teams in the country in the 15-a-side game, as well. The quest has brought the Lions out west to California where they will play No. 1 Saint Mary’s Jan. 23 and No. 20 Santa Clara Jan. 24.

The first game of the two-match trip is a rematch from the 2014 D1A Semifinals, and while the Gaels pummeled Lindenwood in the Playoffs, 72-7, Saint Mary’s knows the scoreline was a bit flattering.

“Two years ago we were a pass or two away from being down 14-0 early,” Gaels Head Coach Tim O’Brien recalled. “Fortune and a good hop helped us gain an advantage.”

The 2014 USA Rugby Coach of the year is also quick to point out that Lindenwood kept a couple of its most influential players off the pitch that day because of disciplinary reasons. Needless to say, top-ranked Saint Mary’s couldn’t care less about what took place two years ago, and are prepared for an 80 minute contest.

“Based on what I know about Lindenwood’s extraordinary player pool, coaching and institutional support, I’m confident they will be a fabulous outfit.”

One would figure the Lions are not only itching to take another shot at Saint Mary’s, but eager for a hotly contested battle against any elite side. An East Coast tour in the fall allowed Lindenwood to get match time and test combinations against Dartmouth and Yale. However, the Lions won both matches handedly and weren’t under the amount of pressure they’ll see in the upcoming Mid-South Conference season.

More recently, Lindenwood hosted and won two scrimmages against the Men’s Junior All-Americans, and received far more resistance than it did against the two Ivy League squads.

The Gaels aren’t the only challenge standing between the Lion and their return flight back to St. Charles, Mo. Following its top-five fixture against Saint Mary’s, Lindenwood will have less than a 24-hour turnaround before it squares off against newly ranked Santa Clara.

Fall wins against University Nevada, Reno and Fresno State were nice ways to open the season, and the Broncos have looked even stronger in 2016. In the last two weeks, Santa Clara knocked off Stanford and Cal State Maritime to open the New Year and earned a spot in the Canterbury Top 20 for the first time since 2014.

Part two of Lindenwood’s brief California tour won’t be streamed against Santa Clara, but college rugby fans won’t want to miss the Gaels host the Lions tomorrow at 1 p.m. PT at Saint Mary’s Stadium. The match will be streamed live on smcgaels.com.


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