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Northern Lights Gets Going With a Wild One in Fargo

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Northern Lights Gets Going With a Wild One in Fargo

Zach Collins for South Dakota State pushes away a tackler, Paul Runia photo.

The Northern Lights Conference is shaken up a little already as the season just gets started.

Longtime contenders and perennial champions Minnesota-Duluth actually entered their game against MSU-Mankato so shorthanded they didn't have a full 15. In the end the game ended as a forfeit for Mankato, while Duluth continues to work on rebuilding to get their nnumbers up. If their numbers rebound they should be strong.

But the slowness of the COVID bounceback in Minnesota has hurt college rugby in the region at least when it comes to roster sizes. The effect spread out to teams in the states bordering Minnesota that are also in the Northern Lights. 

All of this was evidenced also in this week's game between North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

SDSU showed up with only 13 players, and opted not to borrow anyone or take the forfeit. Instead they rocked up with the 13, who played the full 80 minutes. It all started out well for South Dakota State as they ran out to a 24-0 lead. 

North Dakota State responded with a try just before halftime, and they built on that momentum in the second half. Making the changes at the break NDSU clawed their way back and the game ended tied 31-31.

SDSU got tries from James Page (who added three conversions), Alec Nieman, Zachary Collins, Zachary Neaton, and Colin Kolbjornsen. Page at flyhalf and Kolbjornsen at center combined brilliantly, and Collins at No. 8 was a defensive power. However, the fatigue of covering the field shorthanded told in the second half.

Both sides can probably come out of this game feeling good. NDSU's comeback should have the Lost Boys fired up. This came from the team's social media post on the game: 

"Who cares about the score. Who cares about a win. The Lost Boys made significant strides today, and we became a better team because of it. A win today would have made us complacent. A tie keeps us hungry."

SDSU, with some injured players set to come back, could also find some wins.

"I’m hoping to get my injured players that couldn’t play at NDSU back in the game," said club president Caden Runia. "We haven't played against University of Minnesota Duluth recently, so I’m excited to see how that match turns out in two weeks. As for the rest of Division II in the Northern Lights Conference, I know what they are all capable of and I am expecting some good matches and competition in the coming weeks.