MORAGA, Calif. – Saint Mary’s has earned the chance to play for a third consecutive D1A National Championship after having its way with Utah, 81-32.
Playing on the road, the Utes surprised the Gael faithful in attendance by taking an early 6-0 advantage via two penalty kicks. Saint Mary’s found its footing soon after and scored first half tries through forwards Dino Waldren, Vili Helu and captain Kevin O’Connor, while backs Tommy Wallace and Aaron Matthews joined them on the score sheet with tries of their own.
Utah did well to counter punch, and dotted down twice to say within striking distance at halftime, 31-18.
Saint Mary’s, though, would have plenty left in the tank for the second 40 minutes. The No. 2-ranked Gaels put up 50 more points in the second frame, included two more tries by Waldren to give the All-American prop a hat trick, and a second score by Wallace.
Saint Mary’s center and quiet leader Dylan Audsley was solid from the kicking tee all afternoon, and tallied his own try midway through the second half.
The Gaels will stay home for next week’s D1A Final, as Saint Mary’s College is hosting the May 7 2016 USA Rugby College 15s National Championships, where the Gaels will face a familiar challenge in Life University. The Running Eagles looked equally impressive in their 41-7 Semifinal victory over No. 3 Lindenwood.
Next Saturday’s D1A National Championship will mark the fourth consecutive season Life and Saint Mary’s have battled for the title. The Running Eagles won the first encounter in 2013, but the Gaels have had Life’s number each of the past two Finals.