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Davenport Pressure Produces Win Over Indiana

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Davenport Pressure Produces Win Over Indiana

Davenport in red and Indiana in white. Alex Goff photo.

Davenport defeated Indiana 29-8 Saturday in a game that highlighted two teams on different stages of their journey.

Indiana, having unleashed a potent attack in their first couple of matches, struggled with their connections throughout the day in various units of their team, and certainly looked like a squad whose new Head Coach had just arrived in town. Davenport, while not polished to a shine, looked in control of themselves and played with a consistent sense of purpose.

The Davenport Panthers showed their intent early, pressuring off the kickoff and forcing Indiana to kick clear rather than launch something. Fullback Mathew DeVilliers countered off that kick and Davenport ultimately got a penalty out of that. The kick was short (there was some confusion among the volunteer touch judges but, ultimately, the kick missed) so the game remained 0-0, but it was clear that Davenport wanted to do.

Indiana got some territory of their own and looked to capitalize on that, but a scything run from Davenport wing Enrique Carmona turned the tables and when Indiana infringed in trying to stop the attack, DeVilliers had no trouble with the kick. Right after that Davenport struck again. A clearance kick from the Panthers set up an Indiana lineout that Davenport stole. They spun it wide and were in at the corner. The kick from DeVilliers good and it was 10-0.

Indiana replied with a long-range penalty from Peyton Wall, but were having trouble breaking through the Davenport line. The DU defense was up very quickly and openside flanker Alex Null was laying in the hits while also leading the way in getting over the ball in the rucks to challenge for possession. With connections not so crisp, Indiana found themselves without the time and space they wanted. But the Hoosiers battled on and got a scoring chance when Wall scooped up an errant pass. Ultimately Indiana got a penalty and took the lineout, but when lock Saikou Barry bounced off the back of the maul to go for the line he was tackled into touch.

Back came Indiana with a superbly-taken 50-22 from Will Chevalier. But Davenport defended doggedly. The half ended with Indiana camped out in the Davenport 22 and receiving multiple penalties right in front of the posts. With their lineout not firing they opted to tap and go, but IU did not seem to hve an effective set play in place for that and Davenport met each runner with physicality. Ultimately IU came away with nothing and the teams changed ends at 10-3.

For new Indiana Head Coach Luke Gross the difficulties were not unexpected. Hired in August, Gross had had to wrap things up in Colorado and hadn't joined the team until last week.

"I told the boys this half was on me," Gross told GRR. "In the past week I've changed your attack plan, your defensive structure, and your lineout schemes, so this is on me. All we can do is keep working and playing hard, and I was really impressed with the grit and the attitude they showed."

Davenport entered the second half down a man due to a yellow card, but it didn't seem to hurt them. They grabbed the bouncing ball off the restart and DeVilliers sliced through a gap left by Indiana players going offside at a ruck. He almost scored but was hauled down by his opposite number, Chevalier. IU, however, was penalized and DU took the lineout and mauled the ball over fairly clinically.

That made it 15-3, and soon it looked like it might be 20-3 with Davenport getting a huge overlap on the right side. They didn't pass it quickly enough, however, and the IU backs got in the way. Moments later, though, Davenport scrumhalf Jonathan Kuyzli pounced on the ball coming out of the IU end of the scrum and his forwards consolidated from there, bashing at the line before hooker Matt Kelly, who had a very strong game, finished it off.

That did make it 20-3, and in fact it was later amended to 22-3 when after the game the referee confirmed the conversion was good.

Indiana, unable to break through the line and unable to get consistent ball from their scrums or lineouts, looked in deep trouble. But they buckled down on defense, and another loose ball was nabbed by Chevalier who chugged a full 75 meters to score Indiana's only try.

There followed a long, rather wild sequence, with both sides making mistakes and committing penalties. Both sides also decided to tap quickly and the result, aided by referee Marc Voorhees making excellent use of the advantage rule, was a back-and-forth period of rugby that wasn't exactly precise, but certainly was entertaining. Oddly, the final try, then was all about precision. Indiana was penalize for obstruction and Davenport took the lineout, had their maul pulled down, took another lineout, and mauled it over in short order.

For Indiana, it was the beginning of a work in progress, where the effort was there but the set piece wasn't working and ball just came out to the backs too slowly. Hooker Carson Hoeppner, flanker and captain Pat Murtagh, Wall at wing, and Chevalier at fullback stood out. For Davenport, Null was hugely active and effective at flanker, and Nolan led the defensive line as well as the attack. Christiaan Van Der Westhuizen was dangerous on attack as was Carmona, while Kelly and prop Maris Kurtis were in the thick of it all day.

"we've just been working on our defense quite a bit, getting our defense launched, getting our fold correct," said Davenprot Head Coach Dustin Steedman. "We've got a lot of work to do in the set pieces but we're definitely tracking in the right direction.

Fun Fact: Sean Nolan and Ethan Howard of Davenport were on the Back Bay team that won the HS Club National Championship in 2019. The team they beat, Royal Irish, was led by Russell Lemaster and Wyatt Schrader, who started for Indiana at loosehead prop and openside flanker, respectively.