April 15, 2012
MORAGA, Calif. - The Golden Bears took a one-point lead while playing a man down with 11 minutes remaining at Saint Mary's but could not hold on, falling 20-18 to the Gaels Sunday on Pat Vincent Field.
SMC flyhalf Augie Heath kicked a 30-meter penalty in the 76th minute for the winning margin.
"We played pretty hard, at times well, and we had our chances to win, but in the end Saint Mary's was better," said head coach Jack Clark.
The win by Saint Mary's was its first over California since 1988 and the first for Gaels head coach Tim O'Brien against his alma mater.
"We had a lot of opportunities but Cal really put it to us with probably the best midfield in college rugby," O'Brien said. "Our average margin of loss had been about 40. We'd been schooled in a number of facets of the game and this year we just wanted to play well. Cal's always the benchmark."
Sunday's loss leaves Cal with a 15-2 season record in the 15-man version of the game.
"I'm happy with the effort from the guys but we had a few bad breaks in key parts of the game," said captain Seamus Kelly. "We didn't do enough when we had a chance to put them away and a few penalties really hurt us."
The Rugby Bears will shift into preparations for Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s,
broadcast on NBC from Philadelphia June 2-3, but do so knowing they missed some
opportunities to maintain their dominance over Saint Mary's.
Cal fullback Jake Anderson made both his penalty attempts and his second, more difficult conversion following lock Brendan Daly's 50-meter try off an intercepted pass. Anderson's only miss followed the try he notched to open the scoring.
The sophomore and his teammates had ample chances to widen their 15-5 halftime lead, but many of Cal's breaks behind Saint Mary's line were cut short by handling errors as much as they were by determined defense exhibited by both teams in front of a raucous crowd.
The intensity reached a tipping point in the 60th minute, when Bears flanker Ahmed Chehade received a yellow card after both teams exchanged extracurriculars. Referee George O'Neil only carded Cal, leaving the visiting team one man down for 10 minutes.
Midway through Chehade's binning, SMC scored on a try by Heath, but he missed his second of three conversion attempts. Four minutes later, Anderson's three-point boot gave Cal another lead as teams went back to full strength.
Heath missed a 35-meter penalty and a 38-meter drop-goal before his third kick in a five-minute span proved to be the charm for the Gaels.
"I was nervous having struck the first two pretty well, but that last one just came off my foot the right way," said the sophomore. "Everybody in college rugby knows that Cal is the team, so this was a good win for our team."
Six frosh-sophs were on the field Sunday for the blue and gold and only two of today's players are in their final year of eligibility. The Bears will be eager to face the Gaels again and could do so at home with the return of Witter Rugby Field in 2013.
"A lot of our guys are coming back next year and I'm looking forward to it already," Kelly said. "Saint Mary's is one of the best teams in the country. It makes for a great rivalry and that's the beauty of it."
With its focus turning to the CRC, where the Bears advanced to the final in 2010 and quarterfinal in 2011, Cal will be training in the same format of rugby that is to be featured at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
In the reserve-grade contest following the First XV, Cal defeated SMC, 57-5.
The Scoring Timeline vs. Saint Mary's
08:00 Jake Anderson 5
13:00 SMC (Matt Crawford) 5
33:00 Jake Anderson 3
Halftime: California 15, Saint Mary's 5
43:00 SMC (Cooper Maloney) 5, (Augie Heath) 2
65:00 SMC (Augie Heath) 5
69:00 Jake Anderson 3
76:00 SMC (Augie Heath) 3
Final Score: Saint Mary's 20, California 18
The Team vs. Saint Mary's
15. Anderson, 14. Battaglia, 13. Kelly (c), 12. Harrington (Okusi @ 68:00), 11. Lombardo, 10. Bosco, 9. Ring, 1. Deterding, 2. Hyjer, 3. Davenport, 4. Coleman, 5. Daly, 6. De Nysschen, 7. Chehade, 8. O'Beirne