Photos by Michael Geib
MORAGA, Calif. – On a cold, soggy Saturday in the Bay Area, Saint Mary’s hosted a club in Cal Poly who figured to be one of the few teams from Division 1A’s California Conference capable of challenging the Gaels.
The Mustangs were able to hang with Saint Mary’s for the first 40 minutes of the match, but once the home team began to clean up some of the errors it made in the first half the Gaels ran away with the 36-5 victory.
Sloppy field conditions impaired both teams’ ability to mount scoring opportunities in the first half. Saint Mary’s showed skill in several early phases only to run into mishandling errors, which halted attacks.
“It was tough to get into a rhythm because of the conditions of the field,” said outside center Kingsley McGowan. “So that hindered us a bit and we left a couple of tries off the board that we should have scored. But all in all it was a good game and Cal Poly was hard as always. They had a few patterns of play that really tested our defensive integrity.”
McGowan got the Gaels on the scoreboard with a try in the seventh minute. Garrett Brewer, who converted on Saint Mary’s first three tries, stroked the ball through the uprights to give his team an early 7-0 advantage.
Flanker James Borup’s try midway through the first half led to Saint Mary’s 14-0 lead. Cal Poly’s Taylor Honnette would touch down in the half’s final minute to give the Mustangs some momentum although down 14-5 at half.
The second half witnessed a complete performance from Saint Mary’s, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Borup would score twice more for the Gaels giving him a hat trick, while Henry Hall and Joey Reavey would each add a try apiece.
The defeat was Cal Poly’s first in D1A play this spring. The Mustangs will need to put the loss behind them in a hurry in order to properly prepare for an undefeated Santa Clara team Saturday, March 8. The Broncos are 3-0 in conference matches this spring, and have been one of the major surprises thus far in the 2014 season.
Saint Mary’s will demand an equally productive week of training out of itself this week as it travels to Provo, Utah, to face Brigham Young University. The Gaels were able to upend BYU 30-24 at home Feb. 15 in the first half of a home-and-away series. McGowan remembers what happened to Saint Mary’s last time it traveled to Provo and he does not feel his teammates will need any additional motivation for the showdown.
“Last time we went there we got absolutely destroyed two years ago,” recalled McGowan. “We want to show our win wasn’t just a fluke game, and that it was a legit team effort on our part.”
BYU, a team that is not accustomed to losing many rugby matches, will surely have revenge on its mind. Still, the Gaels have opened 2014 with two months of incredibly solid performances, and does not look like a team willing to relinquish its No. 1 ranking earned after its win against BYU a few weeks back.
“This next week coming up is going to be an absolute battle,” said McGowan. “We’re pumped to go up there and have fun and play the game we love.”