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St. Mary’s took down BYU 37-17 in the first of two matchups between the rugby powerhouses in Moraga, Calif., on Saturday. The game was close most of the way through but a late surge from the Gaels cemented the win.
The teams traded tries early in the game with BYU making the conversion to take a 7-5 lead. The Cougars added a penalty kick before the Gael’s took over in the first half and early second by scoring a penalty and adding three tries. Tevite Lopeti, Ronan Murphy and Aaron Matthews all dotted down to give the home side a 25-10 lead.
Despite dominating possession for much of the second half, BYU was unable to break through consistently. The Gael's held BYU dormant until late in the second half
“Our composure in the second half when BYU dominated possession was excellent,” said St. Mary’s coach Tim O’Brien. “Our defense was pretty stout, though BYU punished us for a few assignment errors.”
The Cougars capitalized on one of those errors tocut the lead to 25-17. St. Mary’s added two more in the final 10 minutes, however, to seal the win. Vili Helu dotted down and Peyton Telia-llaio earned his second of the match for a 37-17 final.
“Both teams reshuffled the deck to to injury a bit over the course of the game and we overcame two yellow cards. We did not take any focus off the task at hand and came away with the win,” O’Brien stated.
Despite losing a number of players to graduation, the Gael’s have not missed a beat this season. Coach O’Brien credits the standard set by the seniors from last year’s national title team, Kevin O’Connor, Holden Yungert, Dylan Audsley and Henry Hall.
“We are a work in progress like a majority of club teams but development wise, we are much farther along than last year’s team because of the incredible leadership and foundation set by those players,” O’Brien concluded.
The team’s will meet again on March 10 in Provo, Utah.