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Top-ranked BYU travels to sixth-ranked St. Mary’s Saturday for the biggest clash of the spring college season so far. The Moraga, Calif. fixture is part one of a two-game series, as the Cougars and Gaels will tussle again March 8 in Provo, Utah.
Both BYU and St. Mary’s have been impressive in the early part of the season. St. Mary’s comes into the contest with a 7-0 record, having beaten a pair of top-notch club sides in SFGG and Olympic Club and pretty good college teams in Arizona and Arizona State. BYU also hasn’t lost this spring, but the Cougars have only played smattering of lower-level college teams in tournament play.
Nonetheless, for both teams, Saturday’s match should be the most competitive of the early season.
“We know this will be a great test for us and we look forward to playing a team of the quality of Saint Mary’s,” said BYU head coach David Smyth. “They have a storied program. We know this game will tell us a lot about our team.”
Aside from pairing two of the best teams in the country, this contest also pits dueling competitions – the Varsity Cup and DI-A – against one another. BYU won the inaugural Varsity Cup last season, and St. Mary’s finished second in DI-A.
“I don’t if there’s exactly a grudge or a difference between the Varsity Cup and the National Championship or whatever you guys want to call it,” said St. Mary’s flyhalf Garrett Brewer, “but I think we’re just out here trying to play some good rugby and it’s good to get some good competition, so it should be fun.”
“It’ll be the first real test that we’ve had this year,” added BYU captain and All American Kyle Sumsion. “They are a great team. Everyone is really looking forward to it especially the competition side. We are eager and know we need to be mentally focused and ready to play these guys.”
The last time BYU and St. Mary’s met in 2012, in Provo, the Cougars won 53-17 before going on to win the National Championship.
While there’s some carryover in personnel from that game, an awful lot of All Americans from both sides have since graduated.
“I think this group’s jelling good,” said Brewer of the new-look Gaels. “This year I think we’re a lot different team than we were last year – we’re a lot faster, a lot fitter, a lot more mobile, so I think it’s going to be a good year.”