Franciscan University of Steubenville’s men’s rugby team energized an initially mellow crowd with their 26-21 victory over 3RRC rival Robert Morris in Harding Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 16. The 15th annual event began at 5 p.m., keeping fans on their feet.
Early in the game, both teams scored a try, putting 7-7 on the scoreboard. The teams continued to fight for the lead, pulling even for most of the half. After many unsuccessful skirmishes and balls dropped on the field or soaring into the bleachers, the Robert Morris Capitals scored another try, raising the score to 14-7, where it would remain until the teams left the field for halftime.
During half time, Franciscan honored the legacy of the Robert D’Anniballe family, for whom the Ruckus is named. After the break, the Barons on the fields and in the stands came back for the second half with renewed excitement.
In the second half, the 14-7 deadlock was broken when senior wing Luke McGann broke free from the pack and outran all opponents to score a try for the Barons, amid choruses of shouts from the sidelines.
Before the fans could stop cheering, freshman fly half Rafe Lewis pulled off a similar play. Assisted by junior scrum half David Prezzia, Lewis ran down the field to score the second try within a minute, setting the score at 17-14 in the Barons’ favor. Students on the sidelines, now packed against the rail and roaring at their team’s success, adopted the classic chant “Let’s Go Barons” to “He’s a freshman,” accompanied by claps.
The Colonials quickly followed up with a steal down to their side of the field, setting the score at 21-17. They kept the Barons running hard for the remainder of the game, not giving them an easy victory, but despite the Colonials’ best efforts, the Barons pulled ahead again, finishing the game 26-21.
Senior Josh Leatherby was the man of the match as he stepped in as captain once junior PJ Ernst went down at the end of the first half. Leatherby was instrumental in controlling the offense and putting together scoring drives for the Barons.
“Our veteran leadership was what made the difference,” said Head Coach Dan Kramer to the athletics department. “They came into halftime knowing what changes needed to be made and were able to get the team on the same page.”
The Barons next take on Geneva College on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in an away game. Beyond that, the conference schedule is still being put in place.