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The St. Mary’s v Cal game ended up being an earth-shaking result of some consequence.
In fact, it’s hard to remember any American college rugby team that can say
they beat BYU and Cal in the same season. Suddenly, by beating Cal 55-31,
St. Mary’s puts themselves in very elite company indeed.
“They did a good job in defense and getting off the line but too often we let them off the hook,” said Kelly. “We weren’t able to stay patient enough when we were taking them through the phases and all the pressure was on them. When we did do that, we hurt them, but our execution wasn’t consistent.”
Cal Head Coach Jack Clark called the St. Mary’s performance “lethal” and Cal’s “workmanlike.”
St. Mary’s Head Coach Tim O’Brien – quick as he is to maintain a low profile – tried to say little.
“Against a great Cal program we just want to play respectable rugby,” O’Brien said. “I think we did that today. We worked hard on our defense and patience paid off.”
Oh, so that’s all. Just work hard on defense.
There are some extra things about St. Mary’s that makes them special. The first is that they are fearless. O’Brien may talk a lot about how strong Cal or BYU is, and how untried, untested his team is. But in private, you know there’s a different message.
The message is likely more like: you went to high school with these guys. They’re no different from you. Are you going to let them outwork you? Are you going to let them scare you? No, of course not. There is nothing to lose in this game, so play like it.
Sometimes that approach means the Gaels give up 70 points and score 35. Sometimes, it’s something like this. They do not fear making a mistake, and as such, can sometimes pull off something brilliant.
“Cal and us play two different styles,” said Gaels flyhalf Garrett Brewer. “We’re more open, free-flowing, whereas Cal is very structured and that can sometimes work against you.”
Whatever it was, said Brewer, “it was a huge moment for the club.”
Every year, college teams have to be reminded that leading teams like Cal are vulnerable. This year, St. Mary’s has reminded us that Cal and BYU are both vulnerable. Next up, most likely, will be Life University. And while Life doesn’t have the history of Cal or BYU, they have the record. Something tells us a little Catholic school from Northern California might beat them, too.
(Note - we thought this was the case but it took a while to confirm. Cal Poly beat both Cal and BYU in 2004.