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Christendom’s rugby team took second in a hard-fought National Championship game in New Orleans this past Memorial Day Weekend, falling in the final to New Mexico Tech 26-10. The title game came after three full days of tournament play that wowed rugby fans and announcers alike, as Christendom powered their way through their opponents to reach their second rugby 7s National Championship final.

Christendom’s weekend in New Orleans was the finale to one of the most exciting and successful years in the rugby program’s history, including a thrilling 15s National Championship win in Houston against New Mexico Tech in December. Following a strong spring rugby 7s season, which saw the team compete in four different 7s tournaments across the country, Christendom arrived in New Orleans for the May Madness 7s ready to finish their year just as strongly.

On Saturday, Christendom began their path to the National Championship with a packed day of pool play, first taking on Widener College — a game they dominated. Andrew Mead led the way for Christendom in the first game, scoring three tries to help secure a 40-5 win. The second match of the day against SUNY Genesco proved to be tougher initially, with SUNY scoring the first try of the game before Christendom jumped ahead 14-5. SUNY managed to cut that lead down to 14-10 before Hugh Wingate scored one last try for Christendom, giving them a 21-10 win.

To close Saturday, Christendom took on their toughest opponent of the weekend yet: Wayne State. The match, which was billed as a must-see in the days leading up to the championship, did not disappoint in the drama department, with Christendom going down early 17-7. Matthew Westin helped cut that lead to 17-14, but Wayne State continued pounding Christendom’s defense, extending their lead to 24-14 with only minutes left in the game. With time expiring on the clock, team captain Owen Kennedy powered his way across the try line to put Christendom up 28-24 — winning the game and sending them to the Sweet 16 round on Sunday.

Taking on SUNY Genesco for the second time, Christendom took care of business handily, pouring on points to walk away with a 33-5 win and a trip to the quarterfinal matchup against University of Maine-Orono. That match went much the same way, with Wingate, Kennedy, and Mead all leading the way for Christendom once again. Final score: 21-7 Christendom, with a trip to the semifinal game on Memorial Day secured.

Inside the Shrine on Airline Stadium on Monday morning, Christendom faced off against Babson College — the same team they played, and beat, in the semifinal match in 2017 that sent them to the thrilling National Championship game they won in overtime that year. Immediately, Kennedy set the tone for the semifinal, powering his way down the field and through man after man to score an opening try for Christendom. Westin soon followed, giving Christendom a 10-0 lead at the half.

Babson refused to yield, however, and, with just minutes left, scored back-to-back tries to take a 10-12 lead. Christendom took the ball back as a horn sounded in the stadium, signaling that time was expired. Any mistakes and the game would be over for Christendom. The team then played one of their finest drives of the season to close the game, with the ball again coming to Kennedy — and Kennedy again willing his way over the try line to win the game, 17-12.

That afternoon, under the beating New Orleans sun, Christendom walked back into the Shrine at Airline for the National Championship game — their second in just six short months, and their second against New Mexico Tech. Just like they did in December, Christendom jumped ahead of New Mexico early, going up 10-0 before New Mexico could score. At half, Christendom led 10-7, hungry to hold the lead and bring another trophy home.

New Mexico’s speed came alive in the second half, however, and Christendom struggled to hold them back, giving up multiple tries while also making key mistakes in the final stretch. Christendom refused to back down, however, standing up to New Mexico and giving their all to close the game. While New Mexico walked off the field winners 26-10, Christendom walked away with another trip to the National Championship — their second of the season and their second 7s National Championship game overall.

The 2021-22 rugby season was one of the most successful in the program’s history at Christendom. For Erik Gossin and team captain Owen Kennedy, the May Madness 7s also marked their final games for the Christendom Crusaders, with their impact on the program and its legacy secured for years to come.

The 2021-22 season may be over, but Christendom will be back and ready for another National Championship run in just a few more short months. For more information about the team and Christendom Athletics, visit www.christendomathletics.com.

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