Christendom sweeps rugby tournament in NYC

Members of Christendom College's men's rugby team pose with the championship trophy after winning the 13th Annual Four Leaf 15s Rugby Tournament last Saturday in New York City. Photo courtesy of Christendom College

There’s a certain level of comfort and trust on the field that exists within Christendom College’s men’s rugby team, according to head coach Theo Smith. The Crusaders put that camaraderie on full display last weekend.

Christendom powered its way through the 13th annual Four Leaf 15s Rugby Tournament at Randall’s Island in New York City on Saturday, finishing a perfect 5-0 to claim the championship trophy.

“There’s a lot of leadership. Everyone is just playing so comfortable with each other, it’s like they’ve been playing for years together,” Smith said Thursday. “… It’s the confidence they’re playing with and they’re operating very – it’s like a well-oiled machine almost. … It’s awesome to watch them clear a tournament, just get to the last match and hand the other university a 44-0 (loss). I mean that’s a little bit of a statement there.”

The Crusaders, members of the National Small College Rugby Organization’s Cardinals Collegiate Rugby Conference who were coming off an upset of nationally ranked Duke on Feb. 27, opened the tournament’s pool play Saturday with a tight 14-10 win over Division I-AA Cornell University. Christendom immediately followed with a 34-7 victory over the United States Merchant Marine Academy and a 27-6 win over Division II William Paterson University to complete the pool round.

In the tournament semifinals, the Crusaders rolled through Babson College, 35-7.

“They were gassed,” Smith said of Babson, “and … we’re a small team in stature so we have to make up for that by being really fit. So when you have a potential of five rugby games in one day it really comes down to … it’s discipline but it’s also an endurance test.”

Christendom survived that test in the championship round by blasting Division II American University, 44-0.

“They were just dragging. They were tired and we were fit, and we just kind of punished them a little bit,” Smith said.

Christendom’s rugby success last weekend was just the latest in a string of positive steps the Crusaders have made under Smith’s guidance since he took over as head coach in 2013. The team has a record of 11-3 this season.

Smith said the school’s on-field success has been bolstered by the addition of a “feeder program,” through which Christendom is receiving some experienced rugby players from a small boarding school in Pennsylvania. Instead of having to teach all of the incoming freshmen the ins and outs of rugby, Smith said some students are arriving on campus at the Front Royal school with a high school rugby background.

“That really has changed the dynamic and how you coach,” he said. “Rather than coaching the basic skills you’re coaching a lot of tactics, starting on a higher level. And then also having a third of the team who have played in high school, having them out there on the field also kind of helps because you don’t have to be everywhere at one time. There’s a lot of teaching going on. Right now it’s a very fluid team. They’re all very confident playing with each other right now … so I think this season is gonna be pretty solid.”

Christendom returns to action on April 2 and 3 when the Crusaders put their six-match winning streak on the line in the Cherry Blossom Tournament in Washington, D.C.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com