Crusading towards the Championship – Catching up with Cleveland's premier rugby club

Last fall, this premier amateur rugby club qualified for the national championship. Now, they're in the driver's seat once again.

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Last fall, Right Down Euclid spoke with the Cleveland Crusaders, the City of Cleveland's premier amateur rugby club. At the time, the Crusaders were undefeated and clawing their way towards another Midwest Championship and, in turn, qualify for the USA Rugby National Championship tournament. Soon after, Cleveland carried a 7-1 record into the playoffs and defeated the Green Bay Celtics 52-19 in Chicago to win the 2021 Midwest Championship.

This Midwest Championship is the second in the club's nearly half-decade of history. Now, the team will look to secure their first National Championship, with the furthest they've gone being the quarterfinals. In just a few weeks, they will have the opportunity to win Cleveland's first USA Rugby National Title. On May 7 in Saint Louis, MO, the Crusaders will represent Cleveland in the USA Rugby National Championship Tournament Super-Regionals. If the club wins on Saturday and Sunday, the Crusaders can punch their ticket to the National Championship Final Match on May 21.

With things soon about to kick off, Right Down Euclid caught up with Terry Kilbane, President of the Cleveland Crusaders, to check-in and see how things are going a few weeks before things get underway for the club.

(Editor's note: This has been lightly edited for clarity.)

How have things been since we last spoke?

Things have been really great. After your last story on us, we won The Midwest Championship in the Fall of 2021 which qualified us for The National Championship on May 7 in St. Louis, MO. Rugby has been played in Cleveland since the 1960s and we now have the opportunity to make history and win our City's first National Championship in Rugby.

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Even though Rugby has been played competively since the 1960s, Cleveland has never seen a National Championship. Later this spring, the Cleveland Crusaders hope to change that.

How is the quest for the club’s first national championship?

The boys have been working incredibly hard. Our indoor training began in February and we hit the great outdoors in March with sometimes very uncooperative Northeast Ohio weather. To prepare ourselves for Nationals we scheduled a murderer's row of exhibition opponents that represent some of the best clubs in the region. Buffalo, Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Detroit. These are all teams that would really test us and so far we have passed, going 4-0.

I will share that our season opener with Buffalo at the end of March was played in the worst weather I have ever seen a Rugby match played in. Freezing rain and snow, biting gale winds, and a field covered in inches of brutally cold standing water. Everyone's hands were numb by kickoff. It was miserable, but no one complained. We accepted the circumstances and did what needed to be done. I was really proud of our Club that day.

Have fans been as supportive as always?.

The support has been incredible! Our supporters have been at all of our games, some of them in pretty rough weather. This means so much to the guys. Also, we have received a lot of financial support from people who want to invest in Cleveland's First Rugby National Title. We estimated it will probably cost our Club about $15,000 to $20,000 or more dollars to win a National Title. Without the financial support of our fans and the Rugby Community. We would have no chance.

What can people do to best support you?

It is so awesome when supporters come to our home matches played at Edgewater Park and The Polo Fields in Chagrin Falls. It means so much to have our fans from inside and outside of the Rugby community supporting us. We don't have any home games left this Spring, but we will be back in August for our Fall Season.

Another way, people can support us financially is through donations and sponsorships. We are always looking for brands that want to align with a local Cleveland winning tradition that is powered by actual Clevelanders representing the City that we love.

Who are some of the toughest opponents coming up? Why?

The next match is always the toughest, this weekend we face one of our toughest rivals, The Detroit Tradesmen, at their home pitch in the Motor City. They are an incredibly physical, disciplined, and smart squad. This is a team that requires you to play at your best on both sides of the ball. They will be a fantastic test for us going into Nationals.

Then on the weekend of May 7th, we face two of the best teams in the country on Saturday and Sunday at the Super-Regionals for Nationals. If we prevail in these matches, we punch our ticket to the National Championship Final on May 21st.

The team encourages fans or those curious to come to watch them play on game day. For more information, visit their website and also follow them on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. The team is also always looking for sponsors who want to align themselves with a brand that represents Cleveland with great pride as well. The Club's sole purpose is to be the driving force of the Northeast Ohio rugby community. Now, more than ever, the Crusaders need the support and backing of every Cleveland fan possible.

Also, if fans and Clevelanders alike are able, please consider donating to the club's GoFundMe. The Crusaders are looking for financial support leading up to the team's latest shot at a Rugby National Championship. Donations will provide funding for hotel rooms, plane tickets, vans, facilities, and food to help keep the machine on pace.

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