Army Holds Of Lindenwood in Tense D1A Semi
Army Holds Of Lindenwood in Tense D1A Semi
Army West Point will play in the D1A Final April 30 in Houston after the Black Knights held off a determined charge from Lindenwood to win Friday night's D1A semifinal at the US Military Academy.
Army led by as much as 16, 19-3, but two second-half Lindenwood tries put the Lions within a score at 19-14.
Both teams started the game determined to control the point of contact, and as a result often the ball would pop loose out of a tackle. Army did have an early try-scoring opportunity thanks to a penalty and a maul off the lineout. But Lindenwood's defense stood firm and the Lions eventually ripped the ball free on their own tryline to clear.
It was some Army hits that set up the first score. One big tackle forced a knock-on near the middle of the field. Army won the scrum and put Nolan Green down the sideline. The Army wing was shoulder-charged, giving West Point the penalty advantage. The Black Knights saw their chance instantly and, playing with house money, scrumhalf Tiaan Mosconi sent it to flyhalf Sean McNulty, who popped a well-placed kick into the Lindenwood 22.
The rugby ball is a funny shape and it can bounce unpredictably. The ball bounced into Army hands and in support for the pass was center Max Sackett, who was in under the posts. McNulty converted and it was 7-0 Army.
Lindenwood had their chances after that, with a free kick off a scrum and then a loose ball near the tryline causing all sorts of problems for West Point. The Army defense held, but Lindenwood was rewarded with a penalty that flyhalf Evan Williams easily slotted.
Back came Army, once again punishing penalties and working the maul. Lindenwood had been working hard to stop the maul and had met with mixed results. This time the maul was collapsed and Army got themselves a penalty try and a 14-3 lead.
That's how the first half ended, and in the second half Army struck quickly. Off a scrum No. 8 Lucas Pattinson went on a searching run before popping the ball to flanker Koikoi Nelligan, who would not be denied. Nelligan was overjoyed, as was the crowd, and Army seemed in command at 19-3.
Lindenwood retaliated with a well-taken move that put Nick Hardrict II in at the corner. No conversion, but now it was 19-8. From that point on Lindenwood camped out in the Army end of the field and for about 30 minutes Army was defending or trying desperately to get out of trouble.At times Lindenwood appeared to have broken through only for one desperate tackle to stop it all.
What Army was able to do was make some key tackles way behind the gain line. If a Lindenwood pass was slow or loopy, someone was firing up to make the tackle and drive Lindenwood back.
Williams had another penalty shot, but his kick was short. Still Lkindenwood pressured and eventully the Lions got another penalty. This time they took the lineout and mauled it over. Williams converted and it was 19-14 with about five minutes to go. It was indeed a tense five minutes.
Army looked to reply to that and got a penalty after the restart. But Lindenwood stymied that maul and actually got a penalty that allowed them to temporarily get out of trouble. Army came back with a long box kick from Mosconi that rolled right up to the Lindenwood in-goal. The Lions had no time left to worry about kicks or anything like that. They ran out of trouble and did well, getting into the Army half.
But by then the Black Knights had put up a pretty effective shield wall. They made tackle after tackle, and finally when one tackle forced a knock-on, that was it. Full time, and Army had won it 19-14.
Overall it wasn't the most beautiful game of rugby but it certainly had moments of beauty. Army's dedication to playing defense as a team and their ability to take advantage of key moments saw them through.
For Lindenwood it was a bitter pill to end a really impressive 15s season. Lindenwood played nine lower-division teams or men's clubs, going 9-0, and played 10 D1 or D1A opponents, going 8-2. Their only two losses were to Army.
For West Point, they have one more game to play now, with the D1 Championship being contested April 30 at Aveva Stadium in Houston against the winner of Saturday's Cal vs Saint Mary's game.