Big second half propels Saint Mary’s over Army

D1A Rugby: Big second half propels Saint Mary’s over Army
Photo Credit: Karen Drinkwater (above) & Mark Aikman (homepage)

WEST POINT, N.Y. – A 40-12 win over No. 5 Army at the Anderson Rugby Complex on the West Point campus concluded a three-match east coast tour for Saint Mary’s. While the Gaels did well to pull away from the cadets down the stretch, the 28-point margin of victory doesn’t quite capture the relatively competitive nature of the contest.

The Rugby East Champion took its lone lead of the match within the 10-minute mark when Army’s leading try-scorer, winger David Huff, outpaced the Saint Mary’s defense for a 5-0 lead.

“They’re strong, fast, and can really play,” AIG Men’s Collegiate All-American Dylan Audsley said of the military service academy.

The cadets’ lead wouldn’t last, though, as the Gaels scored two tries within 10 minutes of one another, including a nicely-timed intercept try by winger Mason Colombo. Junior loose forward Peter Basnight would cut the lead to 14-12 for Army after his try and a Daniel Myers conversion. Saint Mary’s looked to be in prime position to increase its lead when the accurate boot of Audsley lined up a penalty attempt for the half’s final play. However, the inside center’s kick failed to split the uprights, and the Gaels were forced to go into the break up just two points.

The inability to add to its lead prior to halftime would do little to effect the outcome of the match as Saint Mary’s owned the final 40 minutes of the game. Four tries and three conversions spurred a 26-point frame for the Gaels, while a relentless defensive effort prevented West Point from scoring in the second half.

One of those four second-half tries was awarded after outside center Kingsley McGowan used some fancy footwork to step a few Army defenders and score under the posts. Lock Henry Hall, who scored a try in the team’s 76-3 win over Dartmouth March 31, added his second and third scores of the tour against West Point, as well.

Saint Mary’s didn’t claim to do anything different to warrant improved results in the second stanza, but simply kept to the structures that have brought the team so much success in recent years.

“We stuck to what we know and played through our phases,” explained Audsley. “When you do that and stay composed, and work through what you do in training, good things will come.”

The proficient second half against Army was an extreme contrast to the way Saint Mary’s handled recent games against BYU and Cal. In those contests, the Gaels carried leads in the second half, only to fall in each encounter.

“We had an ability to relax and play our own game, whereas against Cal and BYU I think we panicked a little bit,” Audsley recalled. “They probably kept their composure better than we did.”

After consecutive losses to Utah, BYU, and Cal, the east coast tour may have been the perfect remedy for a team slightly downtrodden from its losing streak.

“This tour was a great way to hang out with the guys and do some team bonding,” said Audsley. “And it’s not just the A-side guys, but the B-side, as well. We got to mix it up, see New York, and play good rugby teams.”

The loss concludes a 10-2 season for Army in which the cadets’ sole losses came at the hands of No. 1 Life and No. 2 Saint Mary’s. With a top-five ranking and the Rugby East title under its belt, Army will likely receive a first-round bye in the 2015 D1A Playoffs and host a Quarterfinal match April 25.

Saint Mary’s returns to California to prep for its final conference match of the spring – an April 11 home game against Santa Clara. Like Army, the Gaels are heading towards an opening-round bye and a Quarterfinal match to be held in Moraga, Calif.