Saint Mary's quest is complete, claims National Championship

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Saint Mary's quest is complete, claims National Championship

STANFORD, Calif. – The Gaels completed its final step in its 12-month road to redemption. Under the bright lights of Steuber Rugby Stadium at Stanford University, a year after coming up just short in the D1A Final, Saint Mary’s College defeated Life University, 21-6, to win its first National Championship.

In a game pinning a seemingly-unstopped offensive attack in Saint Mary’s, versus Life’s impenetrable defense, the match was played at a pace which favored the reigning Champions for the first 40 minutes of the D1A Final rematch between the country’s No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams.

In the opening stanza, Life controlled possession, using its powerful forwards to methodically keep the ball in Saint Mary’s half of the field.

Unfortunately for Head Coach Dan Payne’s team, the Running Eagles were limited to only three points via a Joe Cowley penalty in the early stages of a match dominated by Life.

Saint Mary’s would finally find themselves on their front foot, and in position to score its first points. Following a Life penalty, Dylan Audsley slotted a penalty through the uprights to tie the match, 3-3, with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.

Each side continued to trade blows, Life showing it was athletic enough to run with Saint Mary’s, and the Gaels proving they were up to the challenge of matching Life’s physicality.

Cowley would add his second penalty to close the half, and Saint Mary’s found itself in a place it was unfamiliar with – behind on the scoreboard after forty minutes.

“The difference between this year and last year is our ability to come back from mistakes,” explained Gaels captain Cooper Maloney. “Once we’d have that one hint of losing we’d spiral down a slippery slope. This year we were able to keep our heads, and just turn that around and keep our confidence.”

The explosive backs of Saint Mary’s slowly began to find space in the Life defense, as Bubba Jones, Kingsley McGowan and Maloney sprung themselves through Life’s line of defense. After fielding a box kick, Maloney made a dash deep into Life territory. A couple of phases later, Maloney scooped up a loose ball and dove over the try line for the match’s first try and gave the Gaels an 8-6 lead.

Shortly after Life’s dynamic flanker Hiko Malu was sent off for a repeated infraction, Audsley sent another penalty between the posts to push the Gaels’ lead to five.

Life continued to absorb the breaks Saint Mary’s attack made, preventing the Gaels from making the offloads they needed to get behind the Running Eagles’ defense.

The pressure applied by the Gaels would eventually lead to a third Audsley penalty, and an eight-point advantage.

Down but not out, Life put in a scrum just inside their end of the 50-meter line. The ball would never make it out to the Running Eagles’ backs, and a loose ball was kicked near Life’s try zone by Saint Mary’s AIG All-American flyhalf Garrett Brewer. The Gaels would eventually re-gather the ball, and Alec Barton dove over the try line for a converted try and put the stamp on Saint Mary’s yearlong journey towards claiming the National Championship, which slipped through their grasps last spring.

“Ever since the last Final we’ve been training,” said Maloney, who was named Most Valuable Player of the 2014 D1A Final. “From the first man to the last man, top to bottom, it’s been a team effort.”

Life, who was undefeated heading into the Championship rematch, had an incredible season and played with impeccable skill and valor. But the night and the 2014 National Championship would belong to Saint Mary’s.

“We have tremendous coaches,” said Maloney. “They know how to coach every type of player. There is no single MVP on this team, it’s every player. The coaches and players did so much work to get here.”

The Gaels’ hunger to bring home the school’s first National Championship was obvious last season and still evident when it lost in the Final of the College 7s National Championship to Arkansas State this past November. But now, at least until the Gaels strap on their boots again to begin next season’s campaign, Saint Mary’s can rejoice in knowing they are the best college rugby team in the country.

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  • Answer

    In reply to: Some Guy

    9 seniors who played regularly and 7 could return. They had 2 - 5th year kids. Most if not all seniors will move on to the real world.

    But they used all kinds of combinations this season and got lots of kids experience at all levels. They have solid teams coming up and will probably get an amazing freshman class.

    It is the best program to be a part of in America....they play for one another and their coaches. True team concept

  • Answer

    In reply to: Answer

    And when I say that....I mean best because of the commitment they make and what they learn in the process. They are not the most gifted kids, but they believe in themselves and in each other, and they don't fear teams.....they usually run them off the field!

  • college rugby

    In reply to: Answer

    I am not sure about this, but I think SMC has some key players out with injury for the year and they were able to fill in and not lose a step. very impressive for a small school to have that kind of depth.

  • Answer

    In reply to: college rugby

    That is true, but you never hear them complain or whine about players being out if they loose!

  • college rugby

    In reply to: Answer

    do you know what players were out and what positions they played - just out of interest.

    0 Like
  • Answer

    In reply to: college rugby

    Don't know all of them but Henry, Borup, Aljouni, and Mihovilovic were all injured and were pack players and are studs
    And they had a couple of foreign players go back to their country in Evans and Dewhurst. So they were easily down several first teamers but had the depth to prevail. and will be better in the future because of it!

  • college rugby fan

    In reply to: Answer

    Thanks - interesting SM never mentions the injured players which is great. The other guy I didn't see was Augie Heath a starter that was out all year - I think her played 12 and sometimes 10 -
    great program - hope they repeat.

    0 Like
  • WOOOOW

    @OLD COUGAR FAN you are extremely narrow minded. Age appropriate competition is valid in other sports in America. In a slightly different light youth competition is separated by age brackets, high school sports have Freshmen only, JV and Varsity teams for competition. It's not as prominent in NCAA sports due to the fact that other sports have the majority of their players coming in with experience since grade school. Their also under professionally paid coaches with great resources. There's also only a very small percentage of 28 y.o. football players or baseball players because who wants to draft someone who doesn't have a lot of good years left. So they don't even have an issue of one team having a large portion of their players older than every other team. They allow it but it's not the same. You really need to take a look at yourself in the mirror and get some help. Rugby as a sport is no where near the same as most of the sports you mentioned at the college level. March Madness is great because you have 16th seeds upsetting number 1 seeds or more frequently any lower ranked seed. Football has teams like Boise St upsetting Oklahoma or App St shocking the world. You won't see someone unranked in rugbymag come in and beat anyone in the top 5. These other sports are well developed in America unlike rugby, which is still on the rise. You feeble-minded, please do us all a favor and refrain from any more comments because everyone in here is becoming more dumb from reading your insanely idiotic remarks. Thank you :)

  • Old Cougar Fan

    In reply to: WOOOOW

    Sorry you don't like me invading your Echo Chamber and pointing out inconvenient facts (which, incidentally, I have backed up with links to original sources).

    The Varsity Cup exists because certain teams wish to see the sport expand beyond the club level, instead of remaining a second-tier sport. If USA Rugby wants to be left behind, so be it. The Varsity Cup will continue to grow, regardless of what you think.

  • Rev 22:18

    Congrats to BYU on a great season and winning a televised invitational tournament. Congrats to St. Mary's for being the Collegiate National Champions.