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In the first week of DIA California Conference play, #3 St. Mary’s continued its romp through the schedule with a 61-7 over #20 San Diego State and Santa Clara edged UC Santa Barbara 41-31.

#3 St. Mary’s at #20 San Diego State

Ever since the early season defeat to San Francisco – Golden Gate, St. Mary’s has been on a tear and San Diego State could do nothing to stop the Gaels as the Aztecs fell, 61-7. In San Diego, Calif., St. Mary’s nearly pulled off the shutout as San Diego State’s Gabe Wall scored a try in the waning moments of the game off a turnover. The Gaels scored nine times and commanded the match.

St. Mary’s head coach Tim O’Brien praised his team’s defensive effort, but added that they have plenty of work to do to compete with the top echelon clubs on the schedule, especially #1 BYU next weekend. “It turned into a bit of hack rugby on our part. We weren’t really precise in different aspects of play, particularly in the midfield. It was nice to get a conference win under your belt.”

The Gaels’ Holden Yungert scored his team’s first try followed by Tommy Wallace, Liam Cotter, and two by Dylan Audsley. The All-American center was near perfect on his conversions going eight for nine on the day. St. Mary’s led 33-0 at the break.

Aaron Matthews began the second half with a try and Kevin O’Connor was credited for a forward pack pushover try soon after. Mike Wallace scored back-to-back tries to complete the assault on the Aztecs.

Assessing his team’s play, San Diego State head coach Alex Lichtig said, “Looking at the first half, the fact we were playing such a high level team factored into our focus and we lacked discipline and focus on own game as far as our play and defensive pattern. That hurt us early on and obviously, St. Mary’s is a top level team in the nation. They will damage you on your mistakes and that was pretty prevalent in the first half.”

“In the second half, we settled down a little bit,” Lichtig added. “We started to get back to the things we do well and became a little better for us. Overall, St. Mary’s is just a top quality side.”

Coach O’Brien admitted that he knows everyone is gunning for St. Mary’s and staying healthy is key for the season. “We played yesterday without Vili Helu, we gave Henry Hall limited time, and Nick Schlobohm got hurt and he’s a brilliant player. We don’t have a big bench... Depth of program for us is significant. At the moment, I don’t see anything beyond our 20... We can’t take our eye off the ball and we have to stay focused on becoming as good as we can be with the guys on our roster.”

O’Brien commended several players on their performances. “Aaron Matthews is starting to become more comfortable wearing #10. It’s all very new to him. Mike McCarthy, at #13, steers the team and he had good day. Kevin O’Connor, Alec Barton, and Marcus Viscardi, our back row, are very underrated group.”

Santa Clara at UC Santa Barbara

After scoring the match’s first two tries in opening four minutes, Santa Clara battled back from a first half deficit to seize victory from the hands of UC Santa Barbara, 41-31. The SCUTS turned UCSB’s errors into points eventually taking a 27-19 lead at the half. Both teams exchanged two tries each in the second half with Santa Clara preserving the 41-31 win.

“We really moved the ball well and played quick ball rugby,” SCUTS head coach Paul Keeler said. “We took the lead and then score changed hands early. We jumped on top of them and they chased us the whole game. We made a couple mistakes to give up those two tries. Scoring early hurt us and we tried to go after the ball rather than make the most of our opportunities.”

Playing in Santa Barbara, Calif., the SCUTS’ Asad Braswell capitalized on errors to score to long range tries (80 and 40 meters) to build a early 12-0 lead. UC Santa Barbara stormed back with scores by David Cota and Ben Lazarevic to take a two-point 14-12 lead. Santa Clara regained the lead with a Will Fitzgerald penalty followed by a Jack O’Hara try. UCSB’s Chris Leahy and SCUTS’s Ryan Chavkin traded tries for the 27-19 advantage to Santa Clara.

Nick Russo and Andrew Clem scored tries for Santa Clara in the first 15 of the second half and repelled UCSB’s efforts. Late in the half, UCSB attempted a comeback with tries by Erick Resendiz and Ryan Cook, but the Gauchos fell short, 41-31.

The signature tries of the game for Santa Clara were for Ryan Chavkin and Nick Russo. “Both were very good tries at the end of the game,” Keeler said. “We were moving the ball really well and a number of people touched the ball in the phases we were playing. Both of those came from a prop passing the ball to a wing or a fullback. Nice soft hands and that represented how we were trying to play.

“When you make mistakes instead on capitalizing on your own good play, they are going to punish you for them,” UCSB head coach Tim Lewis. “We killed them in the lineouts and held our own in the scrums... We played excellent other than the fact we didn’t stick to the gameplan. The difference in the game was the first four minutes and those 12 points... This is the strongest I’ve seen Santa Clara, but we played well and just need to play better. The boys have to be accountable for their decisions and following the gameplan.”