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Lindenwood Holds Off Tenacious CWU

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Lindenwood Holds Off Tenacious CWU

Photo Todd Lunow

A high-rankings game lived up to its billing Saturday night as #1 (GRR rankings) Lindenwood took on #4 Central Washington.

Playing their first game in 367 days, CWU made a very good accounting of themselves, playing a physical brand of rugby with tenacious defense, aggressive work over the ball, and some significant ability to push the pace out wide. However, an inability to get consistent possession off set piece meant Lindenwood had much more possession, snd the more polished Lions rode a 19-0 first half to win 29-12.

"Set piece possession is everything," said CWU Head Coach Todd Thornley. "We did some things well but you can't know how you're going to measure up until you play. Our scrum has been going for only about three weeks, and it showed."

Lindenwood scored early on, getting a penalty, kicking to touch, mauling, and bashing against the line until prop Liam Smith crashed over. Flyhalf Evan Williams was good onthe tough kick and just like that Lindenwood led 7-0 after one minute.

Central Washington came rugby back but in a good attacking position their scrum issues came to the fore. A free kick for Lindenwood lifted the pressure and the two teams proceeded to smash against each other in the midfield. CWU had some chances outside but it was clear the passing wasn't at a mid-season crispness.

Those errors allowed Lindenwood to regain possession in the scrums, and play in the CWU end. Finally that paid off. A clearance kick from Central gave Lindenwood some room to counter. The Lions took it up the left side, worked it nicely, and fullback Connor Burns was over midway through the first half. Williams once again hit the difficult conversion to make it 14-0.

It became more and more difficult for Central to regain possession, and with the lineouts being stolen and the scrums under pressure, it came down to finding turnovers in open play. One such turnover allowed center Jack Wendling—who was very good all evening—to scoop up the ball and gallop down the field. He didn't have enough support, though, and Lindenwood's cover defense was outstanding. 

So instead of a CWU try, it was a scrum, then a penalty for Lindenwood, then an attack in the Central end. Big carries from Tinashe Muchena and lock Emmanuel Albert—who was excellent again—drew in the defense and then the ball was sent wide to wing Morgan Purcell who had no trouble finishing it off.

So 19-0, but Central seemed to get one back after a very strong sequence. However, amid the very sloppy rucks there was an obstruction and an in-from-the-side. The try was called back and the half ended 19-0.

Central needed to find a way to win set piece and never really solved it. Switching up their lineouts didn't really work because they needed more time to nail that down—and Lindenwood's jumpers, including Albert and Marnus Spangenberg—caused them all sorts of problems.

But with flyhalf Lewis Hollidge hoofing the ball downfield, the Wildcats were able to play a better field position game, and their defense never wavered.

Lindenwood once again scored quickly in the half, punishing a fumbled kick and a fractured period of play to send the ball wide for Purcell's second.

But Central came back with some better play, tapped on a couple of penalties, and eventually camped out in the Lindenwood 22. They were close to scoring several times before finally scoring after tapping quickly on another penalty—Nikolas Haviland going over. Hollidge converted and it was 24-7.

Late in the game Stephin Albert crashed over for Lindenwood to make it 29-7, and CWU replied as time wound down with No. 8 Alex Mackenzie getting the try.

The game ended with some pushing and shoving as emotions began to run high. It was perhaps a sense of frustration for both teams as neither allowed the other to do what they wanted.

"We have a lot of respect for Central Washington and their coaching staff, and they put in a really good performance, especially considering they really just got back on the field," said Lindenwood Head Coach Josh Macy. "They brought it physically and this is the kind of game we need."

"We watched some of the film they had from their intrasquad, so we knew what to expect [in the lineouts]," said Albert. "We knew they'd come in with five-man and either go with a quick jump to the middle or try to fake us out and we practiced mirrors with out second side and subs on the first side. The game was pretty solid. The first 30 minutes we just play slow, stalking our prey. And after that we try to pick it up and use our plays to open up the defense and just play hard."

 In the end, Central Washington looked like a serious rugby team against the team that may be the best in the country. It's clear also that CWU will get better in the next few weeks. Lindenwood, too, welcomed the challenge.

Lindenwood 29
Tries: Purcell 2, L. Smith, Burns, Albert
Convs: Williams 2

Central Washington 12
Tries: Haviland, Mackenzie
Convs: Hollidge


Central Washington

1. Cam Nelson; 2. Vanya Sturm; 3. Ivan Pula; 4. Oliver Dyrhsen; 5. Gordon Smilanich; 6. Albert O’Shannessey; 7. Alex Cleary; 8. Alex Mackenzie; 9. Kawika Macy; 10. Lewis Hollidge; 11. Max Riseham; 12. Calvin Liulamaga; 13. Jack Wendling; 14. Jackson Cooley; 15. Jake Szumski

16. Jonah Auvaa; 17. Clint Lyman; 18. Kiale Ulufale; 19 John Dupree; 20. Nikolas Haviland; 21. Noah Wright; 22. Jack Tregoning; 23. Tiai Vavao


1. Liam Smith; 2. Miguel Arcos; 3. Samuel Buckley; 4. Marnus Spangenberg; 5. Emmanuel Albert; 6. Juan Mota Sanchez; 7. Ayden Hurst; 8. Tinashe Muchena; 9. Richard Felton; 10 Evan Williams; 11. Cael Hodgson; 12. Rhys Smith; 13. Stephen Alberts; 14. Morgan Purcell; 15. Connor Burns

16. Dylan Thomas; 17. Beorn Graham; 18. Gabriel Kettering; 19. Jonah Dietenberger; 20. Clarence Ekoume-Bienes; 21. Cody Erhardt; 22. Evan Conlon; 23. Shiven Dukhande