In a game indicative of how tight the Mid-South is, conference rivals Lindenwood and Arkansas State battled in a D1A quarterfinal live on FloRugby.
This was the third meeting of the two teams this season, and each had won once. This time, with a place in the national semifinal on the line, Lindenwood held on 22-18 over a tenacious Red Wolves squad.
There was every expectation that this would be a massively physical game—familiarity between the teams, the conditions, and the way the teams like to play all being a factor in why that would be the case.
And so it was. The Lions and the Red Wolves crashed into each other and made every meter a costly proposition.
And sometimes the cost was high. Vaunted ASU center Mazvitaieshe Nyamarebvu left the game injured and his absence certainly didn’t help the Red Wolves. ASU took an early lead after Calvin Gentry galloped into Lindenwood territory on a counterattack run. He was stopped but Lindenwood was penalized and Dylan Boast was good on the kick.
That slim 3-0 lead held for seven minutes. Then the Lions took a lineout inside the ASU 22, won it, and mauled all the way to the tryline. Prop Chance Wenglewski was the man with the ball, and a good bit of the drive, and with the conversion from Reece Botha Lindenwood led 7-3.
Arkansas State replied in the 28th minute. No. 8 Jake Ray was through from 50 meters. He was hauled down just before getting to the tryline, but Lindenwood wing Christian Rodriguez, who made the try-saving tackle, was penalized and yellow-carded for not rolling away.
It was a professional foul and might have led to a penalty try. No such luck for ASU, but after tapping the penalty, prop Tanner Pope piled over.
Boast converted and Arkansas State led 10-7.
ASU weathered a concerted Lindenwood attack at the end of the first half and was able to kick the ball dead to keep that lead at the break.
The Red Wolves extended that lead with a Boast penalty early in the second half. But Lindenwood kept plugging away. The collisions were earth-shaking and while Lindenwood came close to scoring, the Red Wolves’ defense was impressive.
Finally, after a long period in the ASU 22, Lindenwood sent it to Botha on the outside, and he just managed to get in at the corner. Botha then converted from the touchline, and Lindenwood took the lead 14-13.
Lindenwood put Anelisa Mteto on in the centers and he added a slightly different dimension. That dimension was evident when he unleashed a long skip pass out to Wes Parker who crashed over in the corner, making it 19-13 with ten minutes to go. It could have been more, but Botha’s conversion attempt hit the post, leaving the margin less than a converted try.
Arkansas State replied, pressuring Lindenwood with a tough-minded defense and that forced a dropped ball. Sub forward Paul Ice toed the loose ball through and another sub, Dale Hartmann, chased, picked it up on the run, and crashed over.
That made it 19-18,. Boast had to wait for the kicking tee, but received it in time to attempt the kick. However, just as he was about to run up to the ball, the wind knocked it over. He re-set the ball and made the attempt, but he had to rush, and the ball hit the post. No lead for ASU.
Perhaps, though, it was academic. Lindenwood marched right down the field, got a penalty, and Botha slotted the kick. That iced the game, and was in fact the final play.
“We fully expected this to be a physical game and we prepared for that,” said Lindenwood head coach Josh Macy. “The guys stood up to it and did well. Every game in the Mid-South is like this.”
Lindenwood goes on to the semifinal for the Eastern Bracket, and will play Life University at Life.