BOULDER, Colo. – Saint Mary’s was on the short side of the stick at the conclusion of a recent two-game road trip to Utah.
Friday, March 13, the Gaels rolled out a starting lineup against Utah consisting of a combination of both starters and reserves. The likes of AIG Men’s Collegiate All-Americans Cooper Maloney, Mike O’Neil, and Ryan Pratt were not included in Saint Mary’s first XV, and Utah made the Gaels pay for its less-than-top side.
With All-American fly half Danny Christensen leading the way, the Utes stormed out to a 28-0 halftime lead.
“I knew they would be better because they didn’t have much time to practice ahead of our first match,” Saint Mary’s captain Cooper Maloney said of Utah and the one-sided match that went to the Gaels back in January.
Saint Mary’s was finally able to put together some quality phases on attack in the second half, but the effort wasn’t nearly enough. Utah was relentless on offense and continued to pile up points. When the dust settled, the Utes stood firmly on top of the Gaels, 49-21.
The mixed side used by Saint Mary’s is worth noting, but it’s equally important to keep in mind Utah won by 28 points. The margin of victory validates the Utes’ improvement over the season, and pushed them to No. 6 in the latest Canterbury D1A rankings.
The Gaels were forced to lick their wounds and emotionally recharge their batteries, as a rematch with BYU was less than 24 hours away.
“Mentally, I felt like we were prepared,” Maloney said of the quick turnaround between matches. “We lost to them a few weeks prior, so we really wanted it.”
In a surprise opening to the match, Saint Mary’s jumped out to a 16-0 lead thanks to the strong play of rising star Dylan Audsley. BYU, however, would go on a run of its own after a few unlikely plays prevented the Cougars from putting early points on the board. Consecutive scoring opportunities were finally driven home, and brought the home team within two points at intermission – 16-14.
Similar to round one of the home-and-away series, BYU scored right out of the gate in the second half. All-American fly half Jonny Linehan, who proved once again to have the ability to take over games, personally added eight quick points and gave the Cougars a 22-16 lead.
Saint Mary’s would not go quietly into the Provo night, and scored 10 second-half points. However, BYU kept its foot on the pedal and eventually won, 35-26.
Meanwhile, Utah had the much easier task of taking on fellow D1A Independent Oregon State on the second end of its back-to-back. The Utes started a number of reserves and had their way with the Beavers. Led by Tonata Lauti’s two tries, Utah won, 75-23.