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Life Downs Lindenwood To Make D1A Semis

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Life Downs Lindenwood To Make D1A Semis

Darius Law puts on a move for Life vs Lindenwood from Saturday. Photo Devyn Gomez.

When you get right down to it, Life University has only lost once all season, and that was a pretty close game; Saturday they aimed to prove they were, indeed, that good.

The Running Eagles defeated Lindenwood 25-10 to advance to the D1A semifinals against Navy (the one team they’ve lost to, by the way), coming back form an early deficit to take the game in emphatic fashion—at least as far as this heated rivalry goes.

Lindenwood ran out to an early lead. Four minutes into the game a penalty led to a maul which led to another penalty and another maul … and the Lions had a 7-0 lead.

Life responded well, working their way through the phases and testing the Lindenwood defense. The Running Eagles got a penalty in the middle of the field, and they, too, took the lineout. A massive maul surged on to the Lindenwood line and Life had tied it up.

More penalties and this time Lindenwood opted for points and took a 10-7 lead. The Lions went right back down to threaten Life again, but a penalty in the ruck turned things around for Life. That was key. The Running Eagles had a break down the left side with Logan Ballinger and Ishma-ell Safodien working the ball back and forth. Lindenwood held, but eventually a penalty in the scrum gave Life a chance to tie it up.

The Running Eagles pressured again after the PK but were held out as halftime approached.

The points came quickly in the second half, however. A long Bradley Crane penalty nudged the Running Eagles ahead 13-10 But it wasn’t until the 56th minute that Life really took some control. Working with the ball in the middle of the field Life chipped ahead. The chase was good and Lindenwood, under pressure, wasn’t able to corral the ball and in the end took it back into in-goal and touched it down. Just like that Life had gained 45 meters and had a scrum five meters out. They ran Darius Law straight from Safodien at the back of the scrum, ran another phase, and then Shaun Matthysen off another phase. He was over under the sticks, and Crane’s conversion made it 20-10.

Lindenwood had trouble finding scoring chances after that. Life dominated possession and they just started to put a stranglehold on the game. With seven minutes left a penalty to Life led to another lineout, and a maul. The maul was splintered a little bit but Wes Piggins was able to slide off the maul and dive over.

That sealed it.

It is telling that it was players from the reserves bench who scored the last two Life tries. Those players made an impact as they should.

“We wanted to start well, and we didn’t manage to do that,” said Life DOR Blake Bradford. “We gave up that maul try, and we were down early. But I thought overall we controlled the territory and momentum really well

when. We stuck to our kicking plan and we played in the right positions of the field. And we then hung onto the ball a long time, used that to create pressure, and then capitalized on that pressure.”

It’s a simple approach but it takes an enormous amount of hard work from the players to win rucks and be patient. With Crane, Safodien, and Jeron Pantor making the kicks, they certainly won the territorial battle. In tight Charlie Overton was hugely influential in set piece and at the breakdown. Ballinger has been in superb form of late and was a big ground-gainer. And Seth Kramlich, a player who arrived at Life to play maybe wing or center, has found a home as an openside flanker.

“He is a diamond in the rough, our ripper on the mauls, he plays above his weight, and his work rate metrics, such as meters covered and faster meters covered, are immense,” said Bradford.

Further out Darius Law has partnered very well with Philani Simamane in the midfield. Law, who arrived as an elusive sidestepper has bulked up his game and Bradford says he’s like an extra flanker.

“He’s quite destructive when he wants to be,” said Bradford.

Now Life will look ahead to Navy next week The team they lost to 20-14 back on October 7.

“That loss actually was the catalyst for some change in our team as a whole,” said Bradford. “We learned some good lessons around playing a team that’s really disciplined and sticks to their plan

and we learned lessons about sticking to our plan.”

They certainly stuck to the plan Saturday.