BOULDER, Colo. – A comeback from Saint Mary’s fell just short in Moraga, Calif., as the Gaels were defeated by BYU, 30-29.
An early 3-0 lead for Saint Mary’s quickly vanished following two unconverted tries by BYU. Winger Tommy Wallace was able to bring the Gaels within two points with his score, but that’s when things began to slip away from the reining National Champions.
“We can’t go from down 10-8 to giving up two scores at the end of the first half for them to lead, 20-8,” recalled Saint Mary’s Forwards Coach John Everett. “Then we had a chance to score at the end of the half, but a knock-on at the goal line negated that chance.”
First half frustrations for the home team continued into the second half. The Cougars forced their way into Saint Mary’s territory and eventually put Matt Jensen away for the try to boost their lead, 27-8. After stringing together a few phases, Saint Mary’s found itself in BYU-territory and Dylan Audsley converted his own try, but BYU answered with a penalty kick to lead 30-15.
Playing against a team that can put you away with out the assist of a turnover or friendly bounce, Saint Mary’s did too much to help BYU’s cause.
“We played well enough to get beat,” explained Everett. “When your own lineouts are a good source of possession for the other side, this is a problem. When you don’t compete on kickoffs, that is a problem.”
Trailing by 15 points with not much more than 10 minutes remaining in the match, the Gaels dug deep and pushed the ball to the Cougars’ goal line. Stout tackling, combined with repeat infringements by BYU around the rucks, burnt precious time off the clock and kept Saint Mary’s from narrowing the margin. However, fly half Aaron Matthews would eventually found a seam, and run in for the score.
Down eight points, the Gaels immediately got back into the green zone, but again, the Cougars made it nearly impossible to get beyond the end line. It was Matthews, again, who was able to break free for the try, but it came as the final hooter sounded, and Audsley’s conversion concluded the contest, 30-29, in favor of BYU.
The frenzied pace and relentless effort shown by the Gaels in the match’s final 10 minutes only softens the blow of an otherwise challenging afternoon.
“In all the years at Saint Mary’s, the one facet we can count on is that the players will fight it out to the end,” Everett complimented. “That has never been an issue.”
The Gaels will get another crack at the Cougars March 12 in Provo, Utah. In the meantime, Saint Mary’s will be back in California Conference play this weekend as the team heads south to face UC Santa Barbara Feb. 27.