The Crusaders opened their rugby season with an action packed home game on Saturday, March 21. Playing on a beautiful spring day, before hundreds of excited fans, the Crusaders played one of the most spectacular sports games in the history of the college, beating the highly ranked rugby team of Mount St. Mary’s University by a score of 39-27.
The game was a tough one for the Crusaders, working with a new team, including a number of freshmen players, and playing a team no one on the pitch had ever played before.
The Mount players arrived strong and primed for action. The Crusaders were fit and slighter in nature, but definitely quicker than their opponent — and hungrier for victory.
After 8 weeks of grueling practice, the Crusaders came out strong, but the Mount’s Blue Knights started the game with two tries, quickly gaining a 10-point lead. The Crusaders responded, scoring their first points in a penalty goal hit by junior Patrick Audino. Junior Joe McMahon was able to break through the Blue Knights line and score a try for the Crusaders, followed by a conversion by Audino. The Blue Knights scored one more try, which Audino countered by nailing a penalty goal, leaving the Crusaders down by two points with a 13-15 score at halftime.
The Blue Knights returned to the field on fire in the second half, scoring two tries and a conversion in the first 10 minutes. However, the Crusaders were able to swing the momentum back, holding the Blue Knights scoreless for the rest of the game. The Crusaders responded with tries through Audino, Edward Kelly, Martin Norton, and Mike McMahon, with Audino hitting 3 of his 4 conversion opportunities. All but one of the Crusader’s tries were scored by backs. The Crusaders walked off the field with their first win, finishing the game 39-27.
This win was monumental for the Crusaders. Mount Saint Mary’s was a formidable opponent. They placed first in their league this past fall and are currently ranked 5th in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO). They will play in the Regional Sweet Sixteen this upcoming weekend. Coach Jay Miles of the Blue Knights stated after the game, “Your guys played fantastic. You exploited our weaknesses and we are going to go back to the drawing board before the Sweet Sixteen begins next week.”
Crusader’s Coach Theo Smith, in commenting on the game, stated, “Our team is smaller in stature than a lot of other teams, so we have to be disciplined in our play and be able to outrun the opposition.” Smith continued, saying, “The lads played with a lot of heart. We beat a really good squad today.”
The Crusaders will next play in Washington D.C. for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend, on March 28.