You might not think rugby in The Bronx is a growth sport, but don’t tell that to the Fordham Rams. This past weekend Fordham more than held its own to advance up the ranks of the fast-growing sport on the college campuses, reaching the challenger final of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship at Talen Energy Stadium before falling to Mount St. Mary’s 15-12 before a crowd of close to 15,000 people and a national television audience on NBC Sports Network.
Fordham’s Nathan Fisher and Vincent Brucculeri opened the scoring for Fordham (1/2 conversions made it 12-0 Rams) but The Mount scored twice before end of half but missed both conversions so it was 12-10 Fordham at the half. In the second half, it was a defensive battle but Mount Saint Mary’s broke through with about 3:30 left. After a try and a third missed conversion, MSM led 15-12 and held on to win the match, giving them the automatic entry into the 2018 CRC, which was won for the fifth consecutive year by the University of California, defeating Life University in the Final.
However for Fordham, a school which has excelled in football in recent years but has a continuous rugby program that is as deep a tradition as the gridiron game, the weekend event was an eye-opener as to the potential of what rugby sevens, which is the game played at the Olympics now, can do for potential. The Rams played their qualifying games, with wins against Villanova, the Mount and Rowan University to reach the Finals in group play, on the outside fields, and entered the stadium with another win against Rowan to reach the final Sunday afternoon.
Over the last 15 years, the Rams’ 15s rugby squad has won three conference championships (2003, 2004, and 2009) but this past weekend’s strong showing in sevens, a shorter, faster more action packed game, gives the Rams program even more of an opportunity for growth, given that the CRC is the largest college rugby event on the calendar and it has a national broadcast component.
“This was a big weekend for us to go to a new level, especially in Sevens at such a first class event,” said Andrew Gheraldi, Fordham’s director of rugby. “Although we didn’t get the direct qualify, we were able to both show what we can do and see what the level of competition is, and I’m encouraged that this opportunity will help us, and the other schools in the area who are enhancing what they are doing with rugby, advance even further into the future.”
While many of the local schools had much larger followings, Fordham did have a spirited core group of followers led by football Hall of Famer Joe Jordan, one of the organizers of the event.
“It was great to see Fordham here competing at such a high level, it shows the potential that the sport has,” said Jordan, “and I’m hopeful it will continue to grow. We are very proud of their showing here this weekend.”