Gaels give up lead, fall to Cal

D1A Rugby: Gaels give up lead, fall to Cal
Photo Credit: Karen Drinkwater

BOULDER, Colo. – Saint Mary’s couldn’t hold onto a second-half lead in its rivalry game against Cal, and fell to the Bears, 27-14.

Fans expecting a lot of offensive fireworks were surprised by the defensive confrontation that took place from the opening whistle. Early phases of the game saw the Gaels and Bears spend time in one another’s half. However, neither side was able to turn quality territory and possession into points.

A lost lineout throw by Saint Mary’s, an area of the team’s game that has struggled as of late, would put Cal on the front foot, leading to a Harry Adolphus try. Soon later, Evan Coleman doubled the Bears’ lead, 10-0.

After a scoreless opening half, All-American Dylan Audsley got the Gaels on the board after finding a half gap, then making multiple would-be Cal tacklers miss before diving over the line for a try.

The holes in the Bears’ defense were few and far between, but Saint Mary’s Head Coach Tim O’Brien pointed out that his team didn’t allow the opposition much space to run, as well.

“Cal made as many if not fewer line breaks than Saint Mary’s,” said O’Brien. “I do not see Cal’s defensive structure affecting our attack. We affect our attack.”

The Gaels earned their lone lead of the game soon after Audsley’s score when fly half Aaron Matthew’s chip ahead found space behind the Bears’ defense, and the ref awarded a penalty try to Saint Mary’s when he determined chasers were not given a fair chance to recover the loose ball that rested not far from Cal’s end line.

The home team’s 14-10 advantage would be short-lived, however. The Golden Bears poured in three second-half tries, and returned to Berkeley the victors.

Saturday’s loss comes two weeks after BYU was able to escape a visit to Saint Mary’s Stadium with a one-point win. A reversal of either result would have been big for the Gaels, but they are not overly concerned.

“Even when you put in the work, sometimes the oblong ball does not bounce your way,” O’Brien said.

Their schedule is meant to constantly challenge the reigning National Champions, and those challenging fixtures continue this week with a March 10 date against No. 5 Utah, followed by a March 12 contest versus BYU – both road games for Saint Mary’s.

“If winning was our focus, obviously our structure and competitive calendar would be different,” added O’Brien. “Our goal is to be as good as we can come playoff time. The road to the playoffs needs to be ruthless. We need ruthless opponents like the guys on the schedule now.”