Maggie Flaherty ‘20
The Holy Cross men’s rugby club traveled to California last weekend for the Jesuit Cup 7s, a tournament of the best Jesuit school rugby programs in the country. Last year, the Crusaders shocked D1 powerhouse Boston College with a victory on the opening day of the tournament. Last weekend, Holy Cross wasted no time making sure last year’s win wasn’t a fluke. HCRFC came back to Worcester with hardware, taking 3rd place, earning the “Father Coz” Plate Trophy and proving it can compete with nationally recognized Division 1 programs.
Holy Cross beat Boston College again, 14-10, on the first day of the tournament. The Crusaders blanked the Eagles in the first half, and kept their 7-0 lead off of a try by senior Justin Lee and a conversion kick. Boston College came back with a try in the second half to cut the lead to 7-5, but Holy Cross answered with another try and conversion to extend the lead to 14-5. Boston College attempted some late heroics to fight back, but the Holy Cross defense held its own and repeated last year’s victory. Later that day, Holy Cross fell to Notre Dame 36-12 and tied Scranton 36-36. The next morning, the Crusaders lost to eventual tournament winner St. Joe’s, but their rout of Boston College placed them in contention for the semi-final game against D1 host Santa Clara.
Holy Cross defeated Santa Clara 28-19 to earn its spot as the third place finalists of the tournament. Seniors Billy Connors and Billy Coughlin said that the Crusaders played a great all-around game. The team knew they were facing elite competition in Santa Clara, but Connors and Coughlin said each and every member of the team stepped up to the challenge. “Everyone dug deep and played their best rugby in that match. It was a very hard-fought and well-earned victory that I am more than happy to have ended my Holy Cross rugby career on,” said Coughlin. “We played our system well and capitalized on some of their mistakes, and I just had fun playing a game I love,” said Connors.
The Crusaders’ rugby club has proven itself a force to be reckoned with in the past few years. This past fall, the team won all but one game in its regular season and lost in the conference semifinals. The year prior, the team went undefeated in the regular season and lost in the conference championships. Connors says that the growth of the program is a testament to the hard work the team puts in throughout the year. “It is really amazing how much the club has grown since my first year on campus. I would have never imagined going to California to play rugby. It really is a testament to all the guys on the team and how much more committed we have become.”
“Earlier in our 7s season we played Brown several times. Even though we did not win, Coach Grant received compliments on our play,” Connors said about Holy Cross’ growing recognition in the rugby world. “The rugby community is very tight-knit and word spreads quick. For the Jesuit cup next year, I believe the boys will have some shoes to fill.”