By: The Messenger Sports Reporter Dana Becker
The Iowa Central rugby team made a statement here Wednesday night, scoring a victory over second-ranked Lindenwood-Belleville, 27-18.
"Matt kicked us to victory," ICCC head coach Brent Nelson said. "They missed all three conversions, we made ours and that was the difference in the match."
Lindenwood-Belleville is ranked No. 25 overall in Div. 1-A rugby and second in Div. 1-AA. The Tritons, unranked at the moment, finished last year rated eighth.
"With there being so many small college programs, which we are, they typically don't rank us until late in the season," Nelson said. "We came in as an underdog at home and I think that played to our advantage. We had probably a couple hundred fans out and I was just blown away by the support.
"It wasn't just rugby fans either — we had people from (Iowa Central) come out to see what the sport and our team is all about."
The Tritons jumped out to a 24-8 advantage at the half, accounting for all of their tries. Iowa Central won its four matches last month by a combined score of 343-8.
As Lindenwood-Belleville battled back, Nelson was concerned how his squad would respond after being in lopsided matches so far this season.
"I didn't know how we would react to getting hit the mouth, but the kids responded in kind,"he said. "We took some physical lumps, tackled well and went up against a very physical team that played hard. We had to fight and we did, not backing down.
"I was honored to have a team like Belleville come up and play us all the way from the St. Louis area. I have a lot of respect for them and I think we really gave the fans a great show with a well played match."
After advancing deep into the postseason last year, Nelson called this triumph a "signature win for the program."
"I feel like we can compete with anybody at the Div. I-A level," he added. "We made some mistakes we haven't made this year, but that comes with playing in a pressure-filled match."
The Triton B side will play in Ames this weekend, while the A side returns on Oct. 21 at Lindenwood-St. Charles in Missouri. The conference championship is scheduled for Oct. 28-29 in Rochester, Minn.