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Tennessee Finds Lessons in Lindenwood Clash

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Tennessee Finds Lessons in Lindenwood Clash

Tennessee vs Lindenwood Steven Bridges @knoxphotog photo.

Lindenwood and Mary Washington both ended up in Knoxville, Tenn. over the weekend to join the University of Tennessee in a three-game series.

While the main game was Lindenwood's A-side against UMW, there were other games, as well, giving over 120 college rugby players important game time.

Lindenwood Shuts Out UMW in the Tennessee Rain

The University of Tennessee Men’s A-side faced off in a challenging match against the Lindenwood University Men’s 2nd side. Now, it's a bit unfair to just say this was Lindenwood's 2nds, as many of of the players have suited up for Lindenwood's 1sts, and the program is so deep that one 15 is as good as another many times. 

Tennessee intended to use this match to compare themselves to one of the premier sides in the nation, a side many would consider to be able to win it all. 

As the skies opened up on the pitch and a downpour began, the teams kicked off and Lindenwood looked to rely on the steady and physical play of their forwards to maintain ball in hand and break the gainline. This led to some crucial mistakes by the Tennessee defense, setting up attacking lineouts, and subsequently mauls, deep in Tennessee territory.

The maul was very effective for Lindenwood as hooker Mark Barber was able to score twice from them. When asked what he saw in their mauls Barber said, “it was really hard to see with all the rain, but you just feel how the pack is moving and listen to your scrumhalf and we were able to find success.”

The same happened for replacement hooker Giovanni Agostini, making it four tries from mauls for the Lions' hookers. These two led a very strong and organized pack through the gain line on more than one occasion. Both mentioned that their communication with scrumhalf Leander McQuade was integral to their success.

“We made sure everyone knew to tighten up our passes to make our nine’s life easier," said Barbour.

Agostini echoed that, saying, “Coach Macy teaches us about communication on the field and the nine and ten speak to us and the back line and keeps everybody in sync.”

Final score: Lindenwood 61 Tennessee 17.

Homecoming for Two Lions

One story of the game was the return of hometown players Bryston Appleton and Nick Orefice. Both played for Raptors Rugby Club in Brentwood, Tenn. and made a long-awaited collegiate rugby debut in their home state. When asked what it was like to be back playing in Tennessee Orefice said he “loved being home” and that it “was great to be back and playing against some of my guys.”

Though they dealt with some sloppy conditions in their first game back home Appleton said, “I loved it, I love playing in this weather.”

What stood out to Orefice was Lindenwood's forward play as a team, and “our physicality as a whole. We kept honest to our play and got some good hits in.”

“We had great communication among all the forwards," added Appleton, "and we had constant movement the whole time and we worked through what we needed to get through.”

Tennessee’s side of the ball was somewhat of a similar story. With rain coming down, said captain Luke Mathis, “the focus for this game was just intensity to try and take advantage of the weather.” We definitely had it more in the second half than the first but playing in that mud bowl made it hard to really organize on offense or defense, but that intensity allowed for us to capitalize on some of the mistakes and penalties they committed.”

Tennessee was able to show some competition to a great side from Lindenwood.  

Battling Back

“We went down 26-0 after 30 minutes but from there on out the score was 35-17 which objectively looks bad, but against such a high-quality side it was a good result that we can learn and build from,” said Assistant Head Coach Steve Harris.

Tennessee looks to use the experience gained from these challenging games to improve and refine for their SCRC season in the fall. For now, Tennessee will switch to 7s for the upcoming Tuscaloosa 7s tournament coming up.

But games against UMW's 2nds and Lindenwood's 2nds certainly opened up some eyes.

"We knew these would be tough matches, but you have to take the chance to test yourself when the opportunity to host two of the premier college rugby programs in America comes your way," Harris added. "Lindenwood punished our mistakes early and built a sizable lead in the early minutes of the match. With eight sophomores and three freshmen playing in the Lindenwood match, our squad learned some valuable lessons about playing through adversity and found some moments of well earned success in the second half. Similarly, 11 additional freshmen played significant minutes against Mary Washington's reserve side and will need to grow from the tough lessons learned today." 

Meanwhile, Lindenwood will travel to Arkansas State as their D1A season continues.

—Toby Fagan