Running Eagles make life on the road look easy, crush Clemson

D1A Rugby: Running Eagles make life on the road look easy, crush Clemson
Photo Credit: Nick Storm

LAFAYETTE, Colo. – No. 2-ranked Life University continued its undefeated season in the Mid-South Conference by handing Clemson its first loss of the league season. The Running Eagles, after having played their first three Mid-South games at home, went on the road to easily tame the Tigers, 81-12.

Life’s back line accounted for each of the team’s 29 first-half points. Harley Davidson, Mitchell Wilson, Ryan Rees, Harley Wheeler and Zander Van Schalkwyk each scored tries, while winger Sam Cowley slotted two of the conversions. Still, the forwards did more than their share of the work throughout the contest. The unit continues to lean on a number of players who weren’t in contributing roles a year ago.

First-year Running Eagles Jamie Berrisford, Marr Harmon and Alexander MacDonald continue to crack the team’s first XV; junior Carson McCraw showed off his versatility by starting at hooker a week after getting the nod in the No. 6 jumper and scored a try; while sophomore flanker Donovan Norpglet got his first start of the season. The collective performances negated the absence of capped Eagle prop Alex Maughan.

“We certainly have used the depth chart this season,” Life Head Coach Scott Lawrence said of his revolving lineup. “The younger men are showing some flashes here and there. They make it easy for each other keeping the process simple.”

The visitors only increased the pressure on their hosts over the second 40 minutes. Included in the 52 second-half scoring output were second tries scored by Wilson and Davidson, while Wheeler dotted down twice more – making for a hat trick. The trio of scores gives the sophomore winger five in Life’s past two games after Wheeler bagged himself two tries against Davenport two weeks ago.

After playing their first three Mid-South games at the newly renovated Lupo Family Field on the Life campus, the Running Eagles’ 69-point victory versus Clemson was their first conference game away from home this year – an experience the team looks forward to.

“We enjoy our road games, especially the chance to engage the local rugby communities on our stopovers,” Lawrence said.

In fact, one local community member Life interacted with at Fort Campbell in Kentucky on the team’s way to Lindenwood University is now suiting up for the Running Eagles. Palema ‘Nikey’ Roberts made a meaningful impression on the D1A National Champions while at Fort Campbell. Now Roberts is getting A-side minutes on the wing and studying Exercise Science at Life University.

The Running Eagles’ next road test, a March 25 fixture at Lindenwood, is sure to be a barnburner. When the two teams met in February Life escaped with a 24-18 win. Meanwhile, Clemson gets its first crack at No. 8 Arkansas State after their March 11 game was canceled due to weather.

Elsewhere in the Mid-South, Arkansas State stormed back from a 19-5 deficit to protect its home turf with a 33-19 win over Davenport.