Christendom emerged victorious against the Franciscan University of Steubenville in the 3rd Annual Shield Rugby Match, defeating the Barons 54-31. Playing in front of a deafening crowd on Christendom’s home field, the Crusaders dominated the game from the opening minutes of the match and never let go, defending the Shield trophy for the second year in a row in the school’s biggest athletic event of the year.
Saturday’s match brought the Shield Match back to Christendom’s campus for the first time since the inaugural match in 2014, which the Crusaders narrowly lost 26-23. After crushing the Barons 57-11 last year in Steubenville, the Crusaders determined to keep the Shield trophy at Christendom for the second year in a row, especially in front of the packed stands on Crusader Fields.
The Crusaders wasted no time in proving their prowess on the rugby pitch, with Jerome Norton scoring the first try of the game in the opening minutes — the first of two Norton would score by the end of the game. After Franciscan scored a try to bring the score to 7-5, the Crusaders answered with two tries of their own by team captain Pat Audino and by Tim Marra. By the end of the first half, the Crusaders led the Barons 21-12.
The roar of the passionate Crusader fans and the sound of bagpipes signaled the start of the second half, with Franciscan threatening early by scoring a try of their own, bringing them within two points of the Crusaders. While the Barons had the Crusaders beat in size, they could not match their speed, conditioning, or unity as a team, all weaknesses that the Crusaders exploited to score three more tries soon after, raising the score to 40-19.
Even with only seven minutes left in the game, Franciscan refused to go down without a fight, scoring two more tries to bring the game within nine points. The roars of the crowd roused the Crusaders out of their exhaustion to make two last incredible drives, with Nick Santschi scoring his third try of the day and Joey Kuplack scoring his first, and the last, try of the game with only seconds remaining. The whistle of the referee was blown one last time, announcing the final score of the game: 54-31, Crusaders.
Despite falling to Christendom for the second year in a row, the Barons of Franciscan University harbored no hard feelings, with the Crusaders hosting them at a special social later that night, further building the bonds between the two Catholic colleges.
The Crusaders, now with an incredible record of 16-4, will next play in the Jeff Hewitt Memorial Cup, before playing their final game of the season at home on April 30.