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When Saint Mary’s College of California made its debut in the D1A Playoffs on Saturday, San Diego State was no match for their California Conference rival. The Gaels ripped off 11 tries by eight different players and led 60-0 before SDSU scored in the second half. The Aztecs, who defeated Utah in the D1A opening round, attempted to mount a challenge, but could not gain a foothold in the test. With the victory, Saint Mary’s will host Arizona on Saturday for the semifinals.
Saint Mary’s coach Tim O’Brien told Rugby Today that the keys of the win were “Plenty of possession, minimal unforced errors, and superb support... [We were] pleased to walk away with no injuries. Today was our fourth full game in 14 days. It was nice to see the team growing from each opportunity to play... The win was a program win.”
In Moraga, Calif., the Gaels racked up six tries in the first half while pitching a shutout to the opposition. Holden Yungert, Mike Wallace, Vili Helu (2), Aaron Matthews, and Henry Hall each scored in the half and Dylan Audsley made four conversions to lead 38-0 at the break.
Saint Mary’s continued its dominance in the second half with four straight scores until SDSU made its mark. Yungert scored his second try, Audsley added a penalty, Ethan Waller dotted down one, and Helu completed his hat trick in the sequence to go up 60-0.
The Aztecs finally broke the goose egg when Ari Flink picked up a loose ball deep in SDSU’s territory and returned it the length of the field for the try. After giving up the lone try, the Gaels put in two more before the final whistle blew. Tommy Wallace and Ronan Murphy scored to top off the match sending Saint Mary’s to the D1A Semifinals.
When asked for his thoughts after the match, SDSU head coach Alex Lichtig said, “It was a tough game where St. Mary's showed their class and were the dominant side on the day... I think our hesitance on defense hurt us and St. Mary's dominated the tackle zone on both sides of the ball. We were reactive most of the match which allowed St. Mary's to control the game.”
With Arizona coming to town after the Wildcats’ 48-5 rout of Baylor, O’Brien will have his crew ready for the semifinal. “Arizona is a storied program with a superb coach and a team who seems to be peaking at the right time. What do we need to do to defeat Arizona is to continue to play with composure and intelligence.”