The Crusaders Sr. Men finished the 2017 season on a high note with a victory over the Aurora Barbarians last weekend and earned the Consolation Championship of the McCormick Cup at Fletcher’s Fields. The victory was a second straight dramatic comeback as the Crusaders found themselves down by one point with only minutes to go, but Dan Mathie stepped up and calmly slotted a penalty goal to give the Crusaders a 29 – 27 victory.
The Crusaders’s defence held them in the game as they struggled to get any sort of continuity in their attack in the first half. Numerous handing errors gifted Aurora a 10 point lead before the Crusaders settled into the game and a Matt Nicol Try combined with a Mathie conversion got the Crusaders on the scoreboard. Some sustained pressure late in the half was repelled by the Aurora defence but the momentum seemed to have changed as the teams headed to halftime with the Crusaders trailing 7 – 10. “The opening 25 minutes of the 2nd Half were the best Rugby we played all season. It gave us a glimpse of what this team can be in the future.” stated Head Coach Rodin Lozada. The Crusaders scored three Trys during a period of complete dominance. First Brendan Gilbert came off the bench to score under the posts, then Filip Dobrielski powered over the goal line for the Crusaders’ third Try, and Avery Lecce finished it all off as he broke through the defensive line only to be high tackled in the in-goal forcing the Referee to award a Penalty Try. When the blitz was done, the Crusaders found themselves in a commanding 26 – 10 lead and Aurora looked to be finished. To the Barbarians’ credit they did not quit and took advantage of a Crusaders side that slipped into cruise control, thinking the match was done. The result was 3 Aurora scores that shockingly found them up 26 – 27 with 7 minutes to go in the match. But the Crusaders kept their composure, won the ball back and put the Barbarians under sustained pressure deep in their end which resulted in a penalty and set the stage for Mathie’s match winning kick.
“We learned a lot about this team in the last two weeks as they showed some character in staging consecutive comebacks in high pressure situations.” Lozada said in reflecting on the dramatic ending “We now know that there is something special here, and we are looking forward to next season.”
The Crusaders 2nd XV closed out their season with a tough loss to a strong Balmy Beach squad in the Gee Gage Cup 3rd Place game. Despite being decimated with injuries and call ups to the 1st XV, the 2s players combined with the club’s veterans from the Fab Fours to give the Beach a challenging match and entertain the crowd. The Crusaders finished the season with a 9 win 5 loss league season, good enough for 3rd place in the standings and a run into the semi-final of the Gee Gage Cup.