The Christendom Crusaders defeated #5 Louisiana 33-5 in their final match of the National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) May Madness Collegiate Rugby Championship, finishing with a 2-2 record in the annual tournament. While the team was unable to make it past the Sweet Sixteen round this year, the Crusaders showed determination and resilience in their games, ultimately ending the tournament with a win — both for the team as a whole and for six departing, recently graduated members of the team as well.

Held in New Orleans, Louisiana, this year, the May Madness tournament was a new format for the Collegiate Rugby Championship, with 32 teams — including Army, Air Force, and Mount St. Mary’s — all competing this year for the title.

Christendom began their title hunt on Friday, May 28, playing #5 Marian University in the Shrine on Airline Stadium, home of Major League Rugby’s NOLA Gold. They immediately made a statement in the game, jumping to a 12-0 lead thanks to tries from Owen Kennedy and Joe O’Reilly. Their most impressive moment of the game, however, came in the closing seconds of the first half. With Marian surging towards a try of their own, the Crusaders dramatically stopped them at the tryline — deflating Marian and giving Christendom the momentum they needed for the rest of the match. Another try from O’Reilly, along with a try from Matthew Westin, sealed that game 24-0.

On Saturday morning, the Crusaders moved onto their next opponent in the Premier Bracket: #1 Davenport University. The direction of the National Championship hunt changed for the Crusaders as that match went on, with Davenport taking a 12-5 lead which eventually stretched to 22-5 by game’s end, pushing the Crusaders down into the Champion bracket and ending their dreams of another title in 2021.

Later that afternoon, they took on #2 ranked Mount St. Mary’s in the Champion Bracket Quarterfinals and were met with a similar end result, leaving them with only one game left to play before heading home. The grit and determination of the Crusaders came through the strongest in this moment. When other teams would let defeat define them, the Crusaders united together for their final game of May Madness against #5 Louisiana.

Quickly, O”Reilly provided the Crusaders their first lead since Friday afternoon, scoring an opening try for Christendom. Louisiana immediately came back with a try of their own, bringing the score to 7-5 — a score that would stand as the first half ended. That close score would not last, however, as the second half opened with a huge sprint down the field from Westin, resulting in another try for the Crusaders.

Vince Duhig followed with his final try as a Crusader, with another try scored soon after by Anthony Audino. Kevin McDermott, in his final game, provided the finishing try for the team. The whistle sounded, ending the game: 33-5, Christendom.

For Class of 2021 alumni Will Arnold, John Briggs, Vince Duhig, John Jakubisin, Kevin McDermott, and Joe O’Reilly, this would be their final time together as Christendom Crusaders. Together, they ended their Christendom careers with a win, but most of all as a team.

The Crusaders will be back for another National Championship title run — something that the team’s coaching staff and remaining players are confident about. But the courage, passion, and resilience of the 2020-21 team will not be forgotten.

For more information, visit christendomathletics.com.

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