Crabbie’s successful season ends: Canisius club rugby proves to be a power

By Marshall Haim

Sports Reporter

The Canisius Men’s club rugby team, known as the Crabbies, had one of their best seasons in the club’s history come to a close in a loser-go-home game in Saratoga Springs, New York, last Saturday. The Crabbies lost only their second match in nine total games this season to Salem State, 54-12.

The first regular season game was played on September 12 against the University of Buffalo’s developmental team, in which the Crabbies won 20-19. Some of the key players for Canisius were Jim McCartney, Matthew Smith, and Yasuaki Jitsuyama. Some of the key plays in the hard-fought win came from McCartney who scored off of a tap-and-go from 50 meters away. Jitsuyama won the game for the Crabbies as he got the game-winning score while playing fullback.

The following week the Crabbies hosted their second opponent on the season, Alfred, in which they also won by a close margin, 27-24. On September 26, the team had their first road match against the University of Rochester, in which they won another nail biter, 26-24. The win put the Crabbies in sole possession of first place, in which they kept for the remainder of the regular season.

In the win against the University of Rochester, the Crabbies had to overcome some deficits late in the game, but the talents of Bradley Wier, who scored twice, helped the Crabbies win their third consecutive game. Jake Kehoe scored the tying points with seconds left and Smith pounded the ball in to get the decisive score to win.

On October 3, the Crabbies traveled to Hobart College in which they won the match, 31-7. Canisius leaped out to a 26-0 lead early in the game off of scores by Eric McEvoy, Chris Wier, and Colin Flynn. Joe Philipps added the Crabbies final score to secure the four-game win streak.

“Chris has been there through all of it. He’s a leader both on and off the field and is one of the many dedicated players who stuck with the team through thick and thin,” McEvoy praised about his teammate. “His presence added a certain aspect that is irreplaceable but we’ve seen more growth on the team with every semester and we’re looking forward to seeing how the newer guys step up.”

In the final regular season game, the Crabbies were hoping to secure the regular season title and get a home playoff game with a win against St. John Fisher College. The Crabbies went up 12-0 early off of scores by Smith and Chris Wier. Later on in the game, Wier added his second score of the game to make it a 20-12 game. Zachary Osmanski and John Moran added some very key plays in the eventual 27-12 win.

“We’re hoping that our success this year will bring more acknowledgement to the club,” Moran said. “Furthermore, we hope that our success will encourage new people to join the club. Our goal is to get the club back to what it used to be.”

After the success the Crabbies had in the regular season, they hoped to continue that into the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) playoffs. The first opponent the Crabbies were handed was the team they just defeated, St. John Fisher. Chris Wier scored the team’s first two scores and gave the Crabbies a 14-0 lead. Defensive plays by Alexander Montilla and J.P. Oatman gave Canisius a 21-0 edge going into halftime. Philipps added a score later in the second half, which gave the Crabbies a 26-10 win and advancing to the next round of the playoffs.

The next opponent that Canisius would have to square up against was the University of Rochester, who gave the Crabbies a tough test earlier on in the season. But before the matchup, the Crabbies were hit with some injuries, as they were clinging onto a six game winning streak. In the end, the Crabbies lost their first match of the season in a heartbreaking fashion, 33-28.

Even though Canisius lost to University of Rochester, they Crabbies advanced into the Challenge Cup Final in which they took on Paul Smith’s College in Potsdam, New York. With the very long travel to the Adirondack Mountains, the Griffs overcame a 10-0 deficit early, and ended up winning the match, 23-20. Canisius got their points from Rory Kennon, Oatman, McEvoy, and Chris Wier.

With the win, the Crabbies had the chance to go to NSCRO Champions Cup Finals in Maryland in early December but lost to Salem State. With all the success that the Crabbies have stirred up this season, the men’s club rugby team at Canisius is a force to be reckoned with in the NSCRO.
“We are all excited for next year,” McEvoy said. “We expect it to be even better than this one. We’ll have a very experienced team and the same excellent coach [Steve Caruana]. He’s been with us since 2013 and the club’s success has grown exponentially because of him.”

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