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With a berth to next year’s Penn Mutual College Rugby Championship at stake, Fordham beat West Chester, 24-5, in the Freedom Cup final on Sunday. The New York squad came in second last year and got the monkey off its back in 2018 to beat a six-team field at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa. As the Freedom Cup champion, Fordham earned an automatic bid into the 2019 men's tournament.
In pool play, Fordham, Drexel, West Chester, Villanova, Harvard, and Rowan played a nine-game schedule on Saturday with the cup rounds on Sunday. Fordham’s Saturday matches were highlighted by shutouts against Villanova and Drexel and a tight 14-12 win versus West Chester. Rowan also went undefeated with victories over West Chester, Drexel, and Harvard. Those three teams mentioned went 1-2 in pool play, while Villanova finished with a 0-3 record.
On Sunday in the stadium broadcasted on ESPN+, Fordham dominated Drexel, 21-0. All of the Rams’ damage was inflicted in the first half as Finn McCarrick, Fermin Moraiz, and Max Zhitnik scored in the frame. Both defenses stood tall in the second half and Fordham advanced to the final.
The second semifinal was much more competitive and was a rematch a 15-12 battle from Saturday where Rowan defeated West Chester. Rowan struck first through a Matt Rhones try in the corner and West Chester responded in kind when Ryan Morley dummied his way to a score. The Rams added another soon after as Nick Ulovich extended the lead to 12-5 as the horn sounded.
Reminiscent of the first half, Rhones opened the scoring for Rowan in the second half, however, West Chester answered with a line break by Max Bryson and Morley finished it off for his second try. At 19-10 with limited time remaining, Matt Opacity cut the deficit to two points with a try, but Rowan was unable to put in the go-ahead score with a little over a minute left. West Chester moved on with the 19-17 win to meet Fordham in the final.
After playing in the morning, it was the battle of the Rams as Fordham and West Chester were well rested for the Freedom Cup final. Repeating the trend from the semifinal, Fordham came out aggressively in the first half for the 19-0 lead. Zhitnik gave his team the early lead and Moraiz added to the tally following an intercept by Greg Zovas. McCarrick followed it up with a try to increase his team’s total before the horn.
West Chester showed signs of life to begin the second half as Bryson set up Mike Salloum for the score. The teams fought until the final whistle with Moraiz adding one last try for the 24-5 championship victory for Fordham.
In the third place match, Drexel cracked Rowan, 32-17, and Villanova ended in fifth with a 21-14 win over Harvard.