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The second week of the D1A California Conference saw the frontrunner and the newcomer notch victories. Both squads were road warriors as No. 1 ranked Saint Mary’s blitzed San Diego State, 62-5, in San Diego, Calif. and #21 UC Davis took down Cal Poly, 33-27, in San Luis Obispo. The first weekend of February sees St. Mary’s battle Olympic Club, UC Davis take on UC Santa Barbara, and SDSU host Cal.
St. Mary’s brought their no-nonsense, nothing fancy brand of rugby to San Diego Saturday. SDSU put up a valiant fight with good defense but the Gaels with a relentless attack and suffocating defense found ways to pierce the Aztecs’ armor.
The Gaels maintained a driving tempo throughout the match scoring ten tries in the contest by Ronin Murphy (2), Aaron Matthews, Tommy Wallace, Vili Helu, Alec Barton, Charlie Loudon, Ethan Waller (2), and Tavite Lopeti.
Coach Tim O’Brien cited communication and unselfishness with the ball as factors of his squad’s early success. “Anthony Rodriguez and Ronin Murphy, the starting locks, have big motors that kept us in go-forward mode all day... Tavite Lopeti at #12 is a handful.”
St. Mary’s will look outside of the normal college teams next Saturday when it welcomes the Olympic Club to Moraga. On what playing a Pacific Rugby Premiership club offers, O’Brien said, “Men’s clubs offer many challenges, particularly a star-studded cast like Olympic Club. They are talented from 1-23, pretty much an all-star team.”
It has been an interesting few weeks for California Conference’s newest entrant, UC Davis. The Aggies began the year beating Central Washington, then went 2-1 at the Dennis Storer Classic with a win against UCLA, and now, edging Cal Poly for its first D1A conference victory, 33-27.
“We dominated the first half, we got it on the wider channel,” head coach Andy Malpass said. “We got three yellow cards in the second half, 13 men for ten minutes and 14 men for the final 20 minutes. We attacked more intelligently on the wider channel and our defensive work was solid... Rugby has got to be based on fitness and defense, and we structured our attack from there.”
The Aggies built a 28-6 lead in the first half behind tries from Ari Wargnon, Maia Silva, Bradley Maples, and Michael Buonarati and a perfect boot on Tarik Siniora. Things got more difficult in the second half as Cal Poly took advantage on UC Davis’ card trouble.
Three tries later, the Aggies' lead was cut to one point at 28-27. A late try by Ryan Calbreath gave UC-Davis some breathing room and the Aggie defense held on for the win.
Malpass lauded his players after the game. “Captain Harry Morrow led extremely well, the highest tackle count again. Ryan Calbreath, Ari Wargnon, Bradley Maples, and Cole March had great games.”
According to Malpass, the key to the win was “getting our attack patterns correct off the wider channel, moving the ball quickly, exposing them on the outside of their #13, and the width was where we opened up. We got tries with our willingness to move the ball away from contact and not play one up rugby.”