Christendom opened its rugby season this past Saturday, September 17, with a suspenseful match against nationally recognized Duke University, coming back from a 15-29 deficit in the second half to draw the Blue Devils 29-29.
Playing in front of a deafening home crowd, the Crusaders fought hard against their new conference rival, making impressive drives and big tackles, but also showing their youth with some key misses in the second half.
The Crusaders, playing in their first full fall season, started the game strong against Duke, quickly taking a 10-5 lead over the Blue Devils, thanks to successful kick and a try by team captain Joey Kuplack. Showing off their conditioning and speed, the Crusaders outplayed the Blue Devils’ highly physical squad throughout the first half, with Martin Norton scoring a try to finish the first forty minutes 15-5, Christendom.
Roused by their big mistakes in the first half, Duke roared into the second half with a try on their opening drive, stunning the home crowd and the home team. Duke quickly took advantage of the match, as Christendom missed some key tackles and allowed Duke to raise the score to 15-29 in their favor.
With only minutes left in the game, the Crusaders came together and revealed the determination and passion that led them to a 20-`5 season last year, making big tackles and driving the ball down the field, angering Duke’s line as they saw their advantage slipping away. Riding on the energy of the home crowd, Christendom brought themselves to the try line, with Jerome Norton running in to bring the score to 20-29, before Kuplack raised it to 22-29 with a conversion.
All eyes turned to the scoreboard, as the minutes ticked up towards the eighty minute mark. The Crusaders thundered down the field in their attempt to tie up the game, with Duke pushing back hard to keep Christendom back. With the try line in sight, Jerome Norton took the ball and dived through Duke’s line, bringing Christendom within two. With one kick from Kuplack, the Crusaders tied the game, and finished with a draw with Duke.
As the Blue Devils walked off the field, one remarked to the referee, “I’ve never seen this many fans at a college rugby game. This is incredible.” The energy for the Crusaders was deafening, as students, faculty, staff, and alumni came together to cheer on Christendom throughout the eighty-minute nail-biter.\
With their first game complete, the Crusaders will next play crosstown rival Lord Fairfax Community College next Saturday, September 24. For more information on dates and times, please visit christendomathletics.com