Cal and St. Mary’s will meet in the D1A west final this weekend. The two programs have a long history of playing each other on a yearly basis and in many years have produced some absolute thrillers.
The relationship dates back to the eighties with both coaches knowing each other quite well. Jack Clark took a leap of faith to become one of the first full time coaches in college rugby and over 30 years later he has 27 titles to his name at Cal.
“With the help of his mentor Ned Anderson, Jack has built a rugby empire at Cal. Their success has been unparalleled in college rugby,” Gael coach Tim O’Brien said of Clark.
O’Brien, who played his college ball for the Golden Bears right before Clark took the reins, has been a figure in the Bay Area rugby community for decades and the head coach at St. Mary’s since 2001.
“Good man, Good coach,” Clark said of his counterpart from St. Mary’s.
While Cal’s success has been unmatched by any program in the history of college rugby, the last decade has seen the rise of a number of programs including St. Mary’s. The Gaels have gone from a recreational club in the early 2000’s to a mainstay on the national scene.
“As I mentioned with respect to our regular-season match, the two teams are fortunate to have each other. The matches are attractive to Bay Area fans and important to our team and its development. Saint Mary’s has always been a really good rugby team and they’re every bit of that currently,” said Clark.
The Gaels have won three D1A national titles and reached the finals six out of the last seven seasons. The program has really been on the rise and coach O’Brien credits that to a clear vision and flexibility within the program.
“We have continuously moved forward in my time at the college. We may have taken some side steps here and there but thanks to are our vision for the program and ability to adapt, we are continuing to make strides,” O’Brien concluded.
Who will win the day between these bay area rivals? The perennial national champions dating back to the early days of college rugby or the new kids on the block who have shown they are more than capable of staying with anybody in college rugby?