Christendom College’s rugby team defeated five seasoned college rugby teams to win the 13th Annual Four Leaf 15s Rugby Tournament at Randall’s Island in New York City on March 19. Winning all of their games, the Crusaders blew away expectations and their competitors, raising their season record to 11-3 in the process.
The Crusaders, coming off a surprise comeback victory against #12 Duke University two weekends before, began the tournament playing against nationally-recognized Cornell University — a Men’s Division I-AA rugby squad, currently in the hunt for the Ivy 15s championship. In a tough match, the Crusaders upset Cornell’s hopes for the Four Leaf trophy, defeating the team 14-10.
In the second match, the Crusaders faced off against the United States Merchant Marine Academy, one of the competitors in the 2015 DI-AA USA Rugby College National Championships — and one of the few teams to beat Christendom last spring. Looking for redemption after last year’s tough loss, the Crusaders handily defeated the Merchant Marines 34-7. They followed up that victory with a 27-6 win over Men’s Division II William Paterson University.
With all three teams in their pool defeated, the Crusaders earned a spot in the Four Leaf 15s semi-finals, taking on Babson College. After their three previous forty-minute matches, the Crusaders plowed through Babson 35-7.
Dirty, bloody, and bruised, the Crusaders stepped onto the rugby pitch between Manhattan and Queens for the final game of the tournament against DII American University, a team the Crusaders have beaten handily in past years. That tradition continued in the final, as the Crusaders roared onto the scoreboard and did not let up for the rest of the game. After forty minutes of play, the Crusaders refused to concede a single point, defeating American University 44-0 and claiming the title of Four Leaf 15s Rugby Tournament champions in the process.
The Crusaders’ thirty-two-man squad is made up of both veteran players and new recruits from across the student body, with many of the players never competing in rugby before coming to Christendom. Despite their seeming inexperience with the sport, the Crusaders have beaten the odds and become one of the most formidable teams in the nation over the past few years, under the guidance of coaches Theo Smith and James Conrad off the field and the leadership of veterans Pat Audino — the 2012 recipient of Christendom’s Thomas S. Vander Woude Athletic Scholarship —, Rob McKay, Joey Kuplack, Dan Snyman, and others on the field.
With their new 11-3 record, the Crusaders look to continue their winning streak in the Cherry Blossom Tournament in Washington, D.C., April 2-3, followed by the Jeff Hewitt Memorial Tournament in Pittsburgh, which Christendom won last year without conceding a single point in three games. At home, Christendom will host the University of Richmond and the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the latter for the annual Shield Rugby Match.