Lindenwood and Penn State Land Massive Wins To Advance to the Semis

D1A Rugby: Lindenwood and Penn State Land Massive Wins To Advance to the Semis
Photo Credit: Alex Ho
This was one of the biggest weekends in the history of D1A rugby, massive upsets have paved the way for an intense set of semifinals to be played this weekend. Over the course of the weekend we saw #2 Life hold off a strong and motivated #10 Army side, #3 Cal coming back from a half time deficit to overcome a valiant #11 Navy, #6 Penn State traveling across the country to defeat #4 BYU, and #9 Lindenwood knocking off the #1 seed and the defending National Champions, Saint Mary’s.

In the first match of the weekend, Army travelled down to Georgia to take on Life. After twenty minutes of sustained pressure, leading to a slew of penalties against Life, Army found itself on top, 10-7. However, the issues that were plaguing last year’s runner-up began to disappear as the half drew to a close and by the conclusion of the first stanza, Life was in the lead 17-10. From there the Running Eagles never looked back, scoring 27 unanswered points in the second half. Life won the match 44-10. 

The second game of the weekend provided the first upset, as Lindenwood was able to defeat the defending national champions, Saint Mary’s, 43-22. The first half of the match was a back and forth affair, with the two teams caught in a call and response. The two of them traded penalties early on, then the Lions scored two tries, only to be answered shortly afterwards by the Gaels scoring two of their own. As they went into the sheds the Lions led by two points, 17-15. A quick start to the second half for the Lions proved to be the spark that they needed to separate themselves from their hosts. In the space of seven minutes the Lions’ lead expanded from two points to sixteen. The Gaels were never able to get closer than that. Lindenwood has now advanced to the semifinals four of the last five years.  

Cal and Navy took to  the pitch for the third game of the weekend. It looked as if it could have produced the second upset of the round, however, Navy were unable to finish off what they had started and fell just short of defeating Cal. The two teams went blow for blow throughout the day with each team giving as good as they got. In the first half the two went back and forth trading leads, but as the half time whistle was blown Navy found themselves ahead by five points, courtesy of a try scored in the 38th minute. The second half picked up right where the first had left off, with Cal and Navy trading scores. It wasn’t until the 50th minute that Cal was able to break the game open by scoring three unanswered tries in the space of ten minutes. At the end of this try scoring frenzy, Cal had a lead of 10 points. Navy was able to cut that lead to three points, but that was as close as they got. A 78th minute penalty to Cal pushed the lead out to six, and that was it for Navy. Cal now advances to the semifinal in their first year back in the D1A national championship series. 

With Penn State hot off an impressive display against Arizona and BYU coming in off a resilient win over Arkansas State, this had the makings of an intense match, and it did not disappoint. BYU leapt out to an early two try lead within the first ten minutes of the game. Penn State, unperturbed, came back and in the space of fourteen minutes scored four tries to take a twelve point lead of their own. The resiliency that had carried BYU through last week’s match popped up once again and the Cougars came storming back, reeling off 31 unanswered points in the space of twenty minutes, to take a 43-24 point lead into the final quarter of the match. This did not faze the Nittany lions one bit, as all season they have shown their mettle in tough situations like this, and with only five minutes left they were able to bring the game back to a stalemate at 43-43. Any jubilation that they had been feeling was quickly eradicated by a BYU penalty in the 78th minute. However, the game had one last twist to it with Penn State driving a maul from five meters out to score a try as time expired to win the game 48-46. Penn State now advances to the semi finals. 

With the semifinals decided, difficult decisions were made in order to accommodate travel expenses in the timeline available. Sunday night, the final four teams were consulted by the D1A Executive Committee regarding potential match up changes and a vote was made to re-seed the bracket. Penn State will travel to Georgia to play Life, while Cal will meet Lindenwood in Moraga. Though a rare necessity, such adjustments are part of the 2018 D1A Playoff Structure and Procedures, when having to accommodate for travel and expenses. 

Both games will be available to watch through CBS Sports Network and The Rugby Channel.