Lions, Crusaders to meet on rugby pitch

By Brad Fauber

Lord Fairfax Community College’s men’s rugby team will have a little bit of redemption on its mind when the Lions host Christendom College today.

Despite repeated attempts to schedule scrimmages and other matchups between the nearby schools, LFCC and Christendom haven’t met on the pitch since April 13 of last year, when the Crusaders capped a perfect 4-0 season with a 28-14 victory over the Lions. LFCC will have a chance to even the score today.

“They usually have a pretty good squad. They beat us the last time we played, so we definitely want to get one back,” Lions coach Stuart Freakley said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Though both teams will be looking for a win today, neither Freakley nor Christendom head coach Theo Smith were willing to call the match a rivalry game. Both said it’s more of a friendly match that more closely resembles a scrimmage than a true game, although Freakley said the stakes might increase in the future depending on the outcome today.

“If they beat us this Wednesday, maybe it will spark a little rivalry,” he said with a laugh.

Both LFCC (0-3-1) and Christendom (1-4-1) have played a tough spring schedule this season. One of the Lions’ losses this spring came in the opening round of the National Small College Rugby Organization (NCSCRO) playoffs on March 1, as LFCC fell 49-17 to a very strong squad from Mount St. Mary’s. LFCC also lost a match to Longwood University, which Freakley said was played by the Lions’ B squad, and a close contest to James Madison University.

“While the results aren’t really showing our success, we do have a really strong squad this season,” said Freakley, whose squad is also 5-4-1 in 7’s competition this spring.

Christendom recently completed its first-ever trip to the annual Cherry Blossom Rugby Tournament on April 5-6 after a lengthy layoff between matches. The Crusaders lost all three games in that tournament to very strong squads from West Virginia University, Mary Washington and Salisbury.

The Crusaders also lost a competitive match with visiting Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio) this past Saturday in a match that was played on Christendom’s new rugby pitch. Smith said the Crusaders held the lead over his alma mater for most of the match before Christendom made some “bad decisions” late that cost them their second victory of the season.

“We have a young team, so we have to learn how to maintain momentum,” Smith said. “We started playing less intelligently than we should have.”

The Crusaders will look to put it all together in their season finale against the Lions, whom Smith said present a good physical challenge.

“They have a solid scrum. … Hopefully we can play better against them than we did last year. I mean, we won last year, but they tore us apart in scrums,” Smith said.

“They cycle through a lot of kids, so they get a lot of fresh faces with a lot of enthusiasm,” he added.

In addition to the revenge factor, LFCC will also be playing its final home match of the season, which Freakley said could make today’s match an emotional one for some of the program’s players.

“We’ve got some of the core guys that are going to be playing their last home game. … They want to go out with a bang,” Freakley said.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD