GLENDALE, Colo. - Displaying the best rugby seen in the program's 11 years, the Franciscan University of Steubenville defeated the University of North Florida, 29-5, for third place in the National Small College Rugby Organization national championships.
"They were a good team," Barons senior co-captain David Cup said of the Deadbirds. "It can be difficult to focus on the whole field, but we concentrated on spreading out and defending laterally and vertically. We had to keep in mind everything we learned in practice."
Head coach Mark Hanrahan noted just that.
FUS FINISHES THIRD — The Franciscan University of Steubenville rugby team defeated the University of North Florida, 29-5, for third place in the National Small College Rugby Organization national championships Sunday in Glendale, Colo.
"The guys were resilient today," he said. "They came out and played the type of rugby they knew they could play - the way we taught them and the way they've played all year."
Despite several seniors suffering injuries during Saturday's semifinal loss to Salve Regina, every starter was back on the pitch Sunday.
"Before the game I wasn't sure I would play," said co-captain Michael Brasie. "I woke up in so much pain. But the guys said they needed me - and it was my last game as a senior - so I played through the pain."
Brasie went on to earn the second Baron try of the day.
Senior Tony Gayed was the first to score the Barons, responding to UNF's try 10 minutes into the competition. Tom Allen rounded out the score following both tries with successful conversion kicks, leading the Barons to 14-5 lead at halftime - an impressive feat considering the team was down two men. Cup and Tim Knob were penalized and sent to the "sin bin" for not rolling off of a ruck and playing off sides, respectively.
The Barons continued their strong offensive and defensive play during the second half. At one point the Barons held UNF at the 5-meter line for 12 minutes.
"It was the best defensive stand I've ever seen," said Hanrahan.
Offensively, two more tries were scored by seniors Andrew Kay and Dan Kramer. Allen tallied one more successful conversion and a penalty kick to finalize the 29-5 win.
"The seniors played the best game of their career for their last game," noted Hanrahan. "Kay, Cup, Brasie, Lewis, (Jonathon) Cardinal, all of them. I am so happy that they get to graduate and say that they went out on a national stage and showed everyone what Franciscan rugby is all about."
"All our hard work over the past four years has paid off," noted Brasie. "It feels good going home with a win. Third place is monumental for this program-something we can build upon next year."
"It's very gratifying that all the work we've put in has paid off," he said. "We accomplished this together. The reason why I play, and have continued to play, is because of the team. Our bond is something no one else can ever fully understand or appreciate.
"I also want to say how much I appreciate all the support from our fans and the administration. We appreciate all the time and work they put in to make this happen."
And, according to Chris Ledyard, athletic director at the university, the feeling is mutual.
"What strikes me the most is the faithfulness of the boys," said Ledyard. "Faithfulness to the mission of the school and to each other. They are committed to being better athletes - never saying 'it's just a sport' but really becoming better at what they do."
The Barons finished 14-1-2.