Gaels barely break a sweat in the desert

D1A Rugby: Gaels barely break a sweat in the desert
Photo Credit: Karen Drinkwater

BOULDER, Colo. – Saint Mary’s College returned to California Sunday night with two wins in its kit bag after one-sided victories over Arizona and Arizona State.

The two-match tour of the Grand Canyon State began with a Friday-night affair against the Wildcats at William David Sitton Field in Tucson, Ariz. The Gaels controlled the pace of the game from the opening whistle, and capitalized on nearly every Arizona mistake. After building a 30-7 halftime lead, Saint Mary’s poured it on in the second half to capture a 73-7 victory.  

Albeit against an opponent of different age, size, and experience, the resounding win to open the weekend was a massive improvement over last week’s losing result against San Francisco Golden Gate.

“We had a very detailed film session Sunday identifying strengths and weaknesses,” Saint Mary’s Head Coach Tim O’Brien said of his team’s rebound from the Golden Gate defeat. “We mapped out how to address the weaknesses and build on the strengths.”

With few weaknesses to address following the 66-point handling of Arizona, O’Brien ran out an identical starting 15 less than 48 hours later against Arizona State. The Gaels showed little wear and tear, and kept their adversary off of the scoreboard for a second consecutive half and led, 47-0, at intermission. Saint Mary’s continued to string together effective phases of play, all the while testing different combinations, and eventually stretched its lead to 80-12 by the 80th minute.

The Gaels’ comprehensive weekend gave opportunity for 27 different players to earn A-side minutes, and included two equally dominant wins by the B-side. In total, Saint Mary’s unofficially outscored its hosts 308-31 in its four matches.

A week after handing far too many turnovers to Golden Gate, the Gaels did a much better job of taking care of the ball and maintaining possession throughout their stay in the desert.

“The biggest improvement was ball retention in the contact area and in open play,” said O’Brien.

Circumstances should be more difficult this weekend when top-ranked Saint Mary’s hosts No. 3 Lindenwood Jan. 23. The top-five bout is the first meeting between the two sides since the Gaels downed the Lions, 72-7, in the 2014 D1A Semifinals. The match will be streamed live on GaelVision, with a kickoff time scheduled for 1 p.m. PT.