California

St. Mary's

Cal can't keep pace with Gaels

California Conference, St. Mary's

Cal can't keep pace with Gaels

Photos Karen Drinkwater (homepage) Mike Geib (right)

MORAGA, Calif. – To call Saint Mary’s 55-31 victory against Cal the team’s statement win of the season would be overshadowing a number of the Gaels’ impressive 80-minute efforts they have put together in the past three months. Still, the 24-point win over its Bay Area rival might be the loudest statement Saint Mary’s has made this season.

A large and electric crowd surrounded Pat Vincent Memorial Field, and those who were there to support the home team had plenty to cheer about early on as Saint Mary’s raced out to a 28-3 lead.

Seamus Kelly, fresh off from earning a cap in the Men’s Eagles’ IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying win over Uruguay, scored Cal’s first try with only a few minutes left to play in the opening half.

Any momentum that the Bears generated from Kelly’s try quickly reverted back to the Gaels when Kevin O'Connor ran in a try to close the opening half.

The 33-10 lead Saint Mary’s held at the break did not convince the Gaels to take their foot off of the gas pedal. Last season, Saint Mary’s built a 15-point halftime lead against Cal only to lose 42-31.

“We’ve had nightmares of last year’s game,” said Saint Mary’s fly Garrett Brewer. “We talked at halftime to remind ourselves not to slow down, don’t let up, the score is still zero to zero. Everything about last year’s match is still fresh in our minds. So, we tried to fix our game plan and keep going forward.”

The mental reinforcement worked, as Saint Mary’s outscored Cal 22-7 during the first 30 minutes of the second half. Gaels winger Nick Schlohbohm scored two of his three tries during that span.

The brilliant performance by Saint Mary’s was especially impressive considering the last match to cause the Gaels to do so much as break a sweat was March 8 against BYU.

Since the Gaels’ 35-21 loss in Provo, Utah, D1A Rugby’s No. 1-ranked team swept through three inferior conference opponents while compiling a plus-324 point differential in the process. Saint Mary’s Head Coach Tim O’Brien elected to start the majority of his first 15 in matches that could have easily been used as developmental contests and an opportunity to rest key starters.

O’Brien’s game planning over the past few weeks proved valuable after Saint Mary’s easily dispatched a powerful Cal squad.

“We wanted to stick with our continuity,” explained Brewer. “I think these games leading up to Cal really helped the continuity of the team. Playing our top 15 for 60 to 80 minutes of these games has really helped bring us closer as a team, and we’re well connected, and have a good idea of what everyone is thinking on the field.”

The level of talent on this year’s Saint Mary’s team is equivalent to last year’s unit. This year’s team, however, plays a faster, more wide-open brand than 2013’s version.

Brewer, an AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American in 2013, has noticed another key difference from last year’s team to the present.

“We’re a lot closer this year”, said Brewer. “Especially after losing the National Championship last year. That was a bitter apple for us, and everyone has been working really hard with the practices, the weight sessions, and early morning runs, just trying to get back to that National Championship and get a win.”

With wins over both Cal and BYU under its belt, there is no doubt Saint Mary’s is battle-tested and ready to make another run at the National Championship.

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  • SMC Rugby

    St. Mary's fan here... it's definitely interesting to see how the mid-south games are playing out. With all the close matches, it seems pretty clear that Davenport and Lindenwood are really just a step behind Life and Arkansas State. The real question is are these the Life and AS teams of yesteryear or have they lost a step or two with their recent graduating talent? It's nearly impossible to say since they all play in a bubble without competing against the other top programs in the country. One would imagine that the Gaels, having been tested and having tested the other top programs in the country, will be more ready for the playoffs. Only time will tell. Definitely going to be exciting to see how everything plays out.

    Go Gaels!

  • Future Eagle

    In reply to: SMC Rugby

    It would Be great if Life added either Byu or Cal to their schedule.
    This would solidify them as national champs.
    I feel since SMC played those guys, if they win the championship this year they would be the true National champions

  • PROUD FORMER GAEL

    In reply to: Future Eagle

    Agreed! and we are all excited about the Gaels and the Pace they are playing at right now .... they have improved with each week and are working extremely hard everyday to continue improving. Very driven bunch!

  • CF

    In reply to: PROUD FORMER GAEL

    Everyone here does know that BYU beat SMU a couple weeks back right? So to say they are better and if they win would be the true national champion is not support by the "stats"... Sorry to bust everyone's bubble.

  • Rugger0606

    In reply to: CF

    CF,

    Everyone here knows that SMC beat BYU two weeks before. They each have a win against each other and from what I've seen of BYU they are no where near the team they were last year. I think BYU is the #2 team in the country behind SMC and Cal is should be #3. With all due respect to LIFE and Arkansas State, I am pretty confident Cal would beat both of those teams. Cal brings a lot of pride and tradition into each game and Life nor Arkansas State are at that level yet.

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  • Bob

    It would Be great if the best teams in the country would schedule each other
    Smc vs Byu
    LIFE vs CAL
    UCLA vs Arkansas St
    UTAH vs LIndenwood(those guys are up and coming with the talent they are able to bring in every year)

  • RP

    Hate to burst the bubble here as well but am I the only one that remembers how Life beat SMC in the championship last year? How bad calls unfortunately determined the end of that game?...Just saying...I can't be the only one.

  • pop

    In reply to: RP

    St. Mary's had two poor halves all last season. They remedied the first one against Cal last week. The second was against Life in the national championship. Life was an awesome team with great kids, coaches and parents, but it was a home game for them, it rained hard in the second half, a non-try was awarded LIfe, and St. Mary's head coach has to leave the night before the game.

    Should Life and St. Mary's get to the final, St. Mary's full coaching staff will be on the sunny sidelines at Stanford, with plenty of fans watching an even faster team than last year pass a dry ball.

  • Verne Greene

    The numbers show Cal's days as college rugby's only superpower are over:
    1. Thousands of U.S. kids with years of rugby experience are reaching college age.
    2. Dozens of American universities have adopted rugby as a full varsity sport.
    3. Rugby in the 2016 Olympics will accelerate these trends.
    Congratulations, St. Mary's.

  • Mike

    In reply to: Verne Greene

    Thousands of youth players are reaching HS age - 14 yr olds with ball skills not seen in 95% of US Men's clubs. Get ready coach.