Lindenwood, in its first year of existence, finished with a perfect record and a DII national title, beating Salisbury 50-12 in Rio Tinto Stadium for the hardware.
Salisbury came out of the games with the better intensity and aggression, but couldn't turn the pressure into points.
Lindenwood conceded a pair of free kicks early on via setpiece infringements, one in the scrum and one in the lineout, but forced a turnover off the second one. Wing Jake O’Neill then broke through a Salisbury tackle in the midfield, setting up the opening try dotted down by prop Cody Schwahn.
Salisbury tried to impose its physical style on Lindenwood in the opening 10 minutes, earning a scolding from the ref regarding high tackles early on.
Lindenwood went up 12-0 in the 15th minute when lock Trevor Locke gutted the Salisbury defense and put the Lions on the front foot. They went to the backs next, and flyhalf Brendan Davis sailed a beautiful pass over the outstretched paws of a blitzing Salisbury backs to fullback Morgan Findlay, who scampered in for the score.
Tyler Black, the former U20 player from Colorado Springs, extended the lead when Davis found him ready to pounce on an opening in the Salisbury backline. 19-0 to Lindenwood after 20 minutes.
Salisbury got its first score at the half-hour mark following a series of hard runs from their forwards. Lindenwood had better pace on the outside, and the Sharks’ best vehicle for yardage was the crash ball. The big break in the series was made by No. 8 Jacob Fields, and Nic Capobianco scored shortly after. The try was unconverted.
Lindenwood spent the last five minutes knocking on the door for another try, but the fiercely stingy defense of Salisbury held them out.
The first score of the second stanza came on the heels of a grave Salisbury error. Capobianco muffed a kick, and Lindenwood worked it wide off the ensuing scrum to Jake O’Neill, who burrowed under a Salisbury tackle for the try, extending the lead to 24-5.
The Sharks made a probe deep into the Lindenwood end in the 50th minute, but their slow ball proved ineffective and they were pinged for a penalty, ending the threat.
Lindenwood took their next possession all the way the other direction. Fullback Morgan Findlay made the break and put Locke into space for the score, putting the Lions up 31-5 and opening the floodgates, which outside center Lincoln Magee ran through for the next two tries.
Down 43-5, Salisbury showed signs of life when flyhalf Nick Kuhl put reserve wing Nicholas Rodriguez into a hole. He advanced the ball deep into Lindenwood’s end, and prop Emery Pressman was able to get in for the try.
Lindenwood’s next try might have been its most impressive. They mauled well off of a lineout. With the packs tussling about 10 meters from the touch line, Lindenwood pulled the ball out and fed it to the racing H. Princeton Russell on the weak side. Russell streaked untouched into the try zone to put the Lions up 50-12 with less than 10 minutes to play.
Tries: Schwahn, Findlay, Black, Oneill, Locke, Magee (2), Russell
Cons: Davis (5)
Tries: N. Capobianco, Pressman