Lindenwood beat Utah Valley 57-10 Friday at Rio Tinto Stadium to advance to the DII national final. Utah Valley hung tough in the first half, remaining within a score until the 30th minute.
UVU came out of the gates with a lot of energy and had a few nice breakaways early, but Lindenwood’s recovery on defense held UVU’s early threats out of the try zone.
“We stay firm. We don’t let much rattle us,” Lindenwood coach Ron Laszewski told RUGBYMag.
Lindenwood first got on the board via a penalty try in the 14th minute. UVU wing Filimone Afu, the Wolverines’ last line of defense inside the five-meter line, was pinged for a high tackle. The call was marginal, but the ref yellow-carded Afu and awarded a penalty try. Flyhalf Brendan Davis slotted the easy conversion.
Lindenwood took a two-score lead in the 30th minute when freshman Tyler Black shot through the UVU defense out of a an attacking scrum. Lindenwood opted for the scrum after a penalty in the middle of field about 15 meters out. The conventional play would have been to take a shot at three points.
“I’m coaching a bunch of wild stallions,” said Laszewski. “They don’t always do what I want them to do, but it tends to work out. I’ve got grey hair from it, but we’re winning.”
UVU started to unravel after Lindenwood’s second score. They went away from the pick-and-go offense that saw them control the ball early on, and passes in the backline weren’t reaching hands.
“We didn’t protect the ball like we should have. We just broke down in a lot of our passes, and they capitalized on every mistake that we made,” said UVU coach Clint Wilson. “They’re a very disciplined team in that way.”
UVU’s offensive continuity was severely hurt by the ineffectiveness of scrumhalf Lopeti Ofa. The former U20 tore his MCL in the Round of 16 and has been playing with a taped-up knee ever since. Usually a dynamic runner, Ofa’s mobility was severely limited.
“He shouldn’t have been on the field, but this kid 40-percent is better than most of our guys 100-percent,” said Wilson. “We asked a lot of him today.”
“I think I was just on the field more to be a leader. I’m not the team, so as long as I was on the field, leading the guys, that’s how we wanted it,” said Ofa. “The knee caught up to me.”
Lindenwood lock Joe Shirley scored shortly following another attacking scrum to take give the Lions the 21-0 lead they took into the break. Lindenwood scored three more tries in the second half before conceding one to UVU.
Lindenwood takes on a more structured, larger team in Saturday’s final – Salisbury. Diminutive Lindenwood flanker Trevor Locke says he’s excited by the challenge.
“I love it. I look at it as more of a challenge for us because those guys are looking forward to it when they see small guys on a small team,” he said. “I think that’s something we take pride in is our power and our form. It all comes down to form and how we’re going to tackle. We do such a good job when we do it that we don’t really get intimidated.”
Tries: Black (2), Shirley, Duff, Findlay, Magee, Russell, White
Cons: Davis (6)
Utah Valley 10
Tries: Afu, Araujo