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The Christendom Crusaders traveled south to nationally recognized Duke University this past Saturday, February 27, for an action-packed match, crushing the #12 ranked team in the nation 31-10 in a comeback victory. Playing under the lights on Duke’s home pitch, the Crusaders exploited the Blue Devils’ weaknesses throughout the second half, leading to one of the most spectacular finishes in Christendom sports history.

The Crusaders entered Duke’s sprawling campus with a record of 5-3 on Saturday, looking for redemption after a tough loss to #1 ranked Mount St. Mary’s University the weekend before. From the opening kick, the Crusaders were tested by the Blue Devils’ highly physical squad, who are currently in the hunt for the rugby national championship.

After twenty minutes of back and forth play, Christendom broke through Duke’s line and put the first points of the game up on the board, thanks to a hard drive by team captain Pat Audino. The lead was not to last, though, as Duke reformed and moved down the field for two tries of their own, finishing the first half with a lead of 10-7.

Head coach Theo Smith and assistant head coach Jim Conrad brought the Crusaders together for the half-time talk, making key points and rousing the team as a whole for the second half. The talk had a palpable effect, as the Crusaders came together as a team and clicked within the opening minutes, with Audino driving through the Blue Devils for his second try of the game. With the lead re-taken, the Crusaders never looked back for the rest of the game, as Christendom’s defense held strong against the tough Duke team.

duke-rugby-win-2With Duke frustrated and struggling against Christendom’s speed and perseverance, the Crusaders capitalized on their weaknesses and drove down the field, as Joe McMahon and Daniel Snyman scored tries of their own — often carrying multiple Duke players on their backs as they threw themselves into the try zone.

Duke’s Blue Devils failed to break Christendom’s line for the rest of the game, despite multiple attempts to kick the ball down the field and start a rally. As the final whistle sounded, the Crusaders stunned the home team, and their fans, with a 31-10 victory — a testament to the leadership of Christendom’s rugby coaching staff and to team captains Pat Audino and Rob McKay.

The win was monumental for the Crusaders. Duke is nationally recognized throughout the country, and beyond, for their rigorous athletic program, and their rugby team is ranked #12 in the nation by the NSCRO. They entered the game in the midst of the NSCRO playoffs, and left the game with much to think about before the Mid-Atlantic South Regional Championship in April.

Christendom will next play in New York City for the Four Leaf 15’s Tournament on March 19. For more information on Crusader Rugby, please visit christendomathletics.com.

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