Resilient defense keeps Memorial Shield with Lindenwood

D1A Rugby: Resilient defense keeps Memorial Shield with Lindenwood
Photo Credit: Steve Zomberg
ST. CHARLES, Mo. – In a pivotal Mid-South clash in which neither team wanted to fall to 0-2, Lindenwood hosted Davenport in the third annual Charles Labry Memorial Match. Playing under the lights of Hunter Stadium, it was the road team that looked well on its way to reclaiming the Memorial Shield before a brilliant defensive effort and two late tries by the Lions kept the shield honoring Labry in Lindenwood’s trophy case.

Inside center Anthony Welmers, who missed Davenport’s conference-opening loss to Life, made his presence felt. With the score still knotted at zero-all, Welmers dotted down for the match’s first points.

Full back Lungile Tshuma would get the Lions on the board with a penalty kick, and the score halted, 5-3, at halftime with the Panthers leading.

A constant mist might have prevented the teams from opening their entire playbook on attack, but did nothing to diminish the typically-physical tone between the two programs.

“It was a very physical match, as every Mid-South encounter is,” explained Lindenwood Head Coach JD Stephenson. “The contact area was heavily fought on both sides of the ball, and it was great to see that the conditions didn’t stifle teams around the tackle and ruck area.”

Welmers was at it again in the second half, scoring his second try. After Brady Gent’s successful conversion, Davenport led, 12-3, midway through the second frame. However, sensing defeat in a memorial match honoring one of their own, the Lions turned up the intensity on defense.

“It’s considerably easier to rise up and give your all for the last 20 minutes in a home match that means a lot to our program,” said Stephenson. “It was a very gutsy performance, and we hung in there until the final whistle.”

Once again, Tshuma answered Welmers’ try with a penalty goal, cutting the Panthers’ lead to 12-6. Lindenwood continued to utilize its deep and skilled bench, which began to wane on Davenport’s thinner roster.

As precious minutes continued to roll off the clock, the Lions began spotting half gaps in the defense. First, outside center Morgan Findlay went over the line for Lindenwood’s first try, and cut the Panthers’ lead to just one point. Soon after, recently-capped Eagle and freshman winger Deion Mikesell raced pass the end line for a try and the Lions’ first lead, 18-12.

Lindenwood’s defense remained steadfast for the final 10 minutes of the half, and had the pleasure of hoisting the Charles Labry Memorial Shield at full time.

“It was a great feeling and sense of achievement holding onto the trophy for another year,” Stephenson said. “Have to give credit to Coach James [Wood] and Davenport University for supporting this Memorial Match for the third year, and we hope to continue the legacy into the future.”

The Lions have hopes to win consecutive Mid-South matches for the first time in program history this weekend, but will have to do it against Life – a team that easily handled Lindenwood, 45-15, Feb. 27. Meanwhile, Davenport will host Grand Rapids RFC this weekend before getting back into Mid-South play April 2 when the Panthers welcome Life to town.