Christendom’s Crusader rugby team dominated Ave Maria University and Franciscan University of Steubenville in the inaugural Frassati Invitational on Saturday, April 1, 2017, handily winning the tournament in front of a packed crowd on a beautiful day in the Shenandoah Valley.
An expansion of the annual Shield Match, which previously featured Christendom and Franciscan going head-to-head the past three years, the Frassati Invitational warmly invited the Ave Maria University Papists into the mix this year, with all three teams competing for the Frassati Shield. It was against them that Christendom fought first, quickly throwing points on the board due to a pair of kicks from Derek Casey. Thirty minutes later, the Crusaders had made their dominance known, leading the Papists 55-0 at the half, thanks in part to three tries from Thomas Audino. That score would only go higher, with Christendom handing Ave Maria a 72-15 loss by the end of 70 minutes.
The Papists would pick themselves up only an hour later for the second match of the day against the Franciscan Barons. The Barons wasted no time taking it to the Papists, grabbing a 17-0 advantage by the half. Unlike the first game, however, the Papists were not finished with the Barons. As the second half moved along, the Papists slowly started creeping back up the board, scoring try after try. With ten minutes left in the game, the Papists shocked the crowd and grabbed a lead over the Barons – one they would not let go, upsetting the Barons 38-22.
After a cloudy morning, the sun burst through just in time for the final match of the afternoon, one that was only fitting given the history between the two teams: Christendom vs. Franciscan. After falling in the inaugural Shield Match in 2014, Christendom won the match the following two years, making the Barons hungry for redemption. The Crusaders, however, were not interested in such things. It would take 31 points before the Barons would jump onto the scoreboard, with the Crusaders carrying a devastating lead over them at halftime: 31-7.
Riding a wave of momentum, fueled in part by the crowd of over 500 screaming fans, the Crusaders would not let up, scoring try after try in the second half, led by incredible breakaways from Michael McMahon and a final try from his brother, Joe McMahon. Finally, the final whistle of the day blew: Christendom 50, Franciscan 12. The Crusaders had captured the Shield for the third year in a row.
The intense competition between the three teams led to an incredible day of rugby on Christendom’s campus. Fans from all three schools made trips, sometimes 20 hours in length, to witness the historic tournament. By the end of the day, it was clear that the fans, and the teams, were only hungry for more. Christendom hopes to continue expanding the Frassati Invitational in the coming years, welcoming more Catholic schools to campus for an event like none other.