BOULDER, Colo. – Cal Poly was able to protect its home pitch in a Canterbury D1A Top 20 matchup against Santa Clara, and Saint Mary’s took its frustrations from last week’s loss to BYU out on UC Santa Barbara during the California Conference’s third week of action.
No. 10 Cal Poly 26 – 13 No. 19 Santa Clara
With difficult road games against Saint Mary’s and San Diego State still to be played, Cal Poly understood just how important a win over the Broncos was. While the Mustangs got the result they were in need of, they aren’t as thrilled with the performance that resulted in the win.
“We are pleased with the result, but not entirely pleased with the process,” said Cal Poly Head Coach James Tesoriero. “It was a scratchy and ill-disciplined performance. We struggled to control possession due to turnovers, and leaked two very soft tries.”
A Santa Clara penalty from the boot of fly half Andrew Clem started the day’s scoring, but Cal Poly quickly took control. After missing several weeks of time due to injury, eight man Dustin Mollard was welcomed back to the pitch with the game’s first try.
Prop Nathan Sylvia also scored in the first half and fly half Corey McGrillen slotted his second conversion for a 14-3 halftime lead for Cal Poly.
The visiting side came out the stronger unit to start the second half, and put Clem over for a try to cut the Mustangs’ lead to six points. Then the two ranked California sides traded scores down the stretch as Mollard bagged his second, which was soon answered by Santa Clara winger Alex Pinon’s try.
Still trailing by two scores, full back Kelii Dominguez closed the door on the Broncos with his first try of the season.
The 13-point victory was especially impressive given that a few influential players didn’t suit up for Cal Poly. Captain and eight man John Joe Murphy is dealing with a shoulder injury, but hopes to be back on the field at some point in March. Sturdy midfield ball carrier Mark Grzanich was also absent from Saturday’s team sheet, but hopes to be back in Mustangs’ first XV March 5 when Cal Poly hosts UC Santa Barbara.
Santa Clara will get its first opportunity to play a conference match at home this Saturday when the Broncos host San Diego State.
No. 1 Saint Mary’s 55 – 12 UC Santa Barbara
With one eye looking ahead to an eight-day stretch of three matches against Cal, Utah, and BYU beginning March 5, Saint Mary’s rested half of its starting lineup in a less than perfect outing against UC Santa Barbara.
“Saturday’s performance was choppy,” explained Saint Mary’s Head Coach Tim O’Brien. “Inconsistent team play was frustrating to watch from the sideline.”
Led by winger Chis McDonnell’s two tries, the Gaels raced out to a 29-0 halftime lead, but turnover in the lineup didn’t make for the most attractive of showings.
“With the odd combinations we had in place, guys just wanted to run and run,” O’Brien said. “That led to many errors.”
Still, several players stood out in the 43-point win. Loose forward Marcus Viscardi netted two tries, and hooker Ethan Waller continues to impress. After playing center for the Plano Rugby Club, Waller has undertaken the job of replacing All-American Mike O’Neil in the No. 2 jumper.
“He improves with each opportunity to play,” said O’Brien of the freshman.
In the backs, Mike McCarthy did a great job of keep the disorganization to a minimum, and the coaching staff was pleased with reserve Mike Prebil. New to the sport, Prebil was able to give the Gaels 60 minutes off the bench and brought a tenacious energy when he came on at flanker.
The top-ranked Gaels have a massive encounter to look forward to this weekend when Bay Area rival Cal visits Moraga, Calif., March 5. Saint Mary’s beat the Golden Bears, 55-31, in 2014, before falling to Cal last spring, 27-20.