Christendom College: national champions. The Christendom Crusaders rugby team won the NSCRO 7’s National Championship in Philadelphia in dramatic fashion on Sunday, June 4, defeating St. Mary’s College of Maryland in overtime 24-19. The victory brought the school its first-ever national championship, as the Crusaders wowed the crowd of over 15,000 attendees with their incredible come-from-behind win.
The Crusaders earned their first trip to the national championship after winning a qualifying tournament back in March, in their first official year competing in the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO). When they arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday, the Crusaders began the championship by competing in pool play, playing Colby College, Wisconsin Stevens Point, and New Mexico Highlands University. After defeating Colby and Wisconsin, the Crusaders fell in a tough match to two-time defending champions New Mexico, but still finished the day with the #1 seed in the pool, earning them a trip to the semifinals the next day.
On Sunday morning, Christendom played Babson College inside Talen Energy Stadium, quickly jumping out ahead of the Beavers. While Babson would soon tie the game, the Crusaders answered with more tries of their own, winning the match 24-5 and, more importantly, winning a trip to the national championship finals.
With over 15,000 watching, the Crusaders charged onto the field for the final against St. Mary’s College of Maryland. St. Mary’s showed why they had earned their own trip to the finals, beating the Crusaders throughout the first half and ending the first seven minutes with a 14-0 lead. The Crusaders refused to back down, and opened the second half with two tries of their own, narrowing the lead to 12-14. Momentum was quickly lost, however, as St. Mary’s charged down the field for another try, raising the score to 12-19 with less than two minutes remaining in the game. With no time left on the clock, the Crusaders pushed their way down the field, with Derek Casey willing his body over the line to bring the Crusaders within 2 points. Team captain Joey Kuplack made a successful conversion kick, sending the game into overtime.
The Crusaders wasted no time as overtime began. Michael McMahon grabbed the ball and made a breakaway down the field, bringing the entire crowd to their feet. St. Mary’s brought him down close to the try line, but his brother, Joe McMahon, ran up to grab the ball. With St. Mary’s at his heels, McMahon dove into the end zone, scoring the game-winning try. The match was over, with the Crusaders winning 24-19, and earning Christendom College their first national championship title. Fittingly, Joe McMahon was also awarded most valuable player of the championship.
The Christendom Crusaders are the smallest school in the NSCRO by a wide margin, especially compared to fellow NSCRO teams Duke University, the College of William and Mary, and others. Making it to the national championship in a field of hundreds of schools was a tremendous achievement on its own, but winning the championship was even more stunning.
The Crusaders rugby team has grown into great success over the years, winning the Four Leaf 15s tournament, setting a school record with twenty wins, and becoming the first Christendom varsity sport to have an undefeated season. This year, they went 12-2-1 in 15s play and 8-2 in 7s play, while also winning the St. Mary’s College NSCRO 7s national qualifier tournament.