MORAGA, Calif. – Saint Mary’s College will have an opportunity to win a second consecutive D1A Rugby National Championship after disposing of the Mid-South’s Davenport University, 48-32.
Playing their clinical-yet-expansive style, the Gaels jumped out to a 10-0 lead midway through the opening half. Saint Mary’s pounced on another opportunity to score to push its lead to 17-0, and the Panthers countered with three points off the boot of JP Eloff. Davenport failed to build off the momentum of its initial score, and the Gaels added a converted try before halftime to increase their lead to 24-3 at the break.
With the home crowd behind them, the Gaels were the more energized bunch to open the second frame, and quickly boosted their lead to 31-3.
Head Coach James Wood’s Panthers showed tremendous resilience, as well as vision, as the visitors began to chip away at the reigning National Champion’s lead. Gabe Sochanek, Reece Czarnecki, and Dominique Bailey would each get beyond the end line for tries to get Davenport as close as 43-32 with just a few precious minutes to play.
The 11-point deficit would be as close as the No. 3-ranked Panthers would get, as fly half Kingsley McGowan would punctuate Saint Mary’s Semifinal win with a beautifully-placed chip kick that the AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American would gather and dot down for the game’s finale try and a 48-32 victory.
As he has been all season, Dylan Audsley was hugely influential for the No. 2-ranked Gaels. Audsley converted his first six kicks at goal, with his first miss only coming after the inside center scampered 60 meters for a brilliant individual try.
The 16-point win advances Saint Mary’s to the May 9 D1A National Championship Final, where it will once again face Life University after the Running Eagles took care of Lindenwood, 43-14. The 2015 title game will mark the third consecutive season in which Saint Mary’s and Life compete for the D1A title. In 2013, it was the Running Eagles who used a second-half surge to win the National Championship. The Gaels were able to return the favor last spring by getting the better of Life, 21-6, for the program’s first National Championship.
The D1A Final will be the fourth and final National Championship match when it kicks off at 4 p.m. ET as part of the May 9 USA Rugby College 15s National Championships at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University. Preceding the highly-anticipated rematch between Life and Saint Mary’s will be the Men’s D1AA, Women’s DI, and Women’s DII National Championship finals. Tickets for the College 15s National Championships are available online and starting at $10.