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Fordham takes Cherry Blossom crown to NY

Posted in: College
By Eddie Cullen (guest contributor)
Apr 9, 2009 - 12:46:22 AM

(Fordham photo)
Fordham University is still reveling in the glory of its win at the 43rd annual Cherry Blossom tournament.

The men’s college tournament consisted of 18 quality programs including Cornell, Georgetown, Virginia, Maryland, and Radford.

Fordham kicked off group play against George Washington University. After feeling each other out for the first ten minutes, Fordham took control of the game and went on to win 28-5.

Fordham’s try-scorers included lock Will Beller and center Joe Kennedy.

The next game tested the valor, skill, and heart of Fordham as they were matched against the defending Division II national champs Radford. The Highlanders oversized Fordham and tried to use intimidation tactics before the initial kickoff to rattle the opposition, however, their efforts were thwarted by Fordham’s staunch defense and masterful possession of the ball.

Fordham was able to slow down the game with constant rucking and slow movement of the ball from crash balls and mauling. Radford let the frustration settle in as they committed penalty after penalty.

Flyhalf Evan Sheha took advantage of Radford’s mishaps and slotted four penalty kicks during the game, while scrumhalf Joe Izzo was among the Fordham scorers.

After two tough games on day one, Fordham got the #1 seed for the Cup playoffs and faced James Madison, which had beaten Old Dominion 8-0, in the semifinals.

The game was a chess match from start to finish. Fordham jumped out to an early 3-0 lead with a penalty kick by Sheha. JMU quickly responded with a penalty kick from flyhalf Tyler Maccubbin after an infringement around the ruck by Fordham.

After ten minutes of intense play, a JMU player committed a high tackle giving Sheha the chance to put another kick through the uprights. With the score at 6-3, Maccubbin led his JMU side down the field and was awarded an easy opportunity at a penalty kick.

The score remained 6-6 until JMU exposed a few gaps in the Fordham defense and touched down a try to make the halftime score 11-6.

Fordham showed resiliency in the second half and with under seven minutes to go, flanker Kevin Hyland delivered a quick pass to wing Rougie Odor, who quickly paced to the corner of the try zone. That tied the scores at 11-11 and sent the match into a sudden death five minute overtime.

The tension was high and less than a minute in Fordham was awarded a penalty at midfield.

Evan Sheha

Sheha drilled the ball through the posts from 50 meters out giving Fordham a thrilling 14-11 win that sent them into the final against Binghamton.

Binghamton had beaten Virginia 31-0 in their semifinal and looked to dismantle the magical run by Fordham University in the final. Even though Fordham got on the board first via a Sheha penalty kick, Binghamton failed to disappoint and controlled the first half.

With quick ball movement in the backs, Binghamton swung the ball out wide often and it paid off when their outside center chipped over the Fordham backs and caught it in the try zone giving Binghamton a 7-3 lead.

Following more intense play, Sheha was given yet another opportunity to slot a penalty and he delivered to make the score 7-6. Binghamton retaliated and the outside center again broke through for his second try of the game to set up a halftime score of 12-6 to Binghamton.

Fordham coaches Andrew Gheraldi, Jeff Miragliotta, and Joe Hill gave their side some halftime advice that reaped immediate rewards when Fordham scored in the corner to make the score 12-11.

Two more Sheha penalty goals made it 17-12 with precious little time left on the clock, but Binghamton had one more push in them. They applied pressure on Fordham inside their own 22 meter zone, but Fordham’s defense was up to it and they held on to be crowned 2009 Cherry Blossom champions.

Evan Sheha was named tournament MVP.

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