Lions tame College 7s field for second National Championship

D1A Rugby: Lions tame College 7s field for second National Championship
Photo Credit: Steve Zomberg

GLENDALE, Colo. – Lindenwood University stormed through the Men’s Division I field at the 2017 USA Rugby College 7s National Championships to claim the program’s second title in rugby’s Olympic code.

Two years after winning the College 7s National Championship at the University of Denver, the Lions returned to Colorado where they once again reached the Cup Final at Infinity Park after losing in the Cup Quarterfinals in the 2016 championship event.

“It’s our lucky charm,” tournament Most Valuable Player Nick Feakes said of the team’s fortunes in Mile High City. “It’s a beautiful city and we really enjoy coming here. Everything ‘s always run pristinely. If they want to keep putting Championships here we’re fine with that.”

In pool play, Lindenwood relinquished just one try over three games while accumulating 87 points in victories over Stanford, Wyoming and Grand Canyon University.

One-side victories continued for the Lions as they marched through the knockout rounds. First, they dispatched Bowling Green 42-0 in the Cup Quarterfinals. In the Semifinals, Lindenwood posted another shutout, this time at Utah’s expense, 33-0. The win over the Utes setup a Cup Final against defending College 7s National Champions and the 2017 D1A National Champions Saint Mary’s.

In the Final, the two teams ranked in the top-five of the Canterbury D1A Top 20 traded opening tries before the Lions scored the game’s fine 17 points for a 24-5 National Championship winning performance.

“We’ve worked really hard in the lead-up to this tournament,” Feakes added. “The coaches have been pushing us at training, and we’ve done a serious amount of fitness these past two weeks and it’s really paid off.”

Feakes unquestionably shined as the Men’s Division II MVP, as did fellow know commodity and 2015 MVP Mickey Batemen. But so too did many of Lindenwood’s underclassmen. Sophomore Sam Chapman and freshman Wesley White were consistent contributors over the championship weekend, while sophomore Cristian Rodriguez may have been the breakout stat for the Lions. After quietly starting on the wing all season for Lindenwood’s 15s squad, Rodriguez torched the competition in Colorado, scoring a try in all but one of the Lions’ six College 7s fixtures.

It wasn’t just speed Rodriguez showed off, either. The 5-foot-6-inch winger was commonly putting in big tackle and leading a defensive effort that surrendered just 10 points the entire tournament.

“There are no steps back when substitutions are made,” Feakes said of Lindenwood’s deep and talented roster. “We could’ve put any different combination there and it’s good to see these freshmen and sophomores coming in playing some really good footy. The program’s in great hands for the future.”

Making the weekend even more special for Lindenwood University was the National Championship won by the school’s women’s team. A year after losing to Life University in the Cup Finals of College 7s, the women of Lindenwood also went undefeated on its way to a National Championship winning tournament. The Lions carried a plus-138 point differential into the Cup Final before avenging last year’s loss to Life with a 31-12 victory over the Running Eagles in the Cup Final.