March 26, 2017
Cal Bears Edged by Saint Mary’s Gaels
Photo: ABFlyer of Jake Goena, Anthony Salaber v Gaels
Cal Athletics Release: Anton Malko
BEARS EDGED BY GAELS, 27-24
4 Cal Tries to SMC’s 3 Aren’t Enough
3/25/2017 9:59 PM | By: Cal Athletics
BERKELEY – The Golden Bears made four trips into the try zone to the Gaels’ three and led by as many as 11 points in the second half, but Saint Mary’s took advantage as California struggled over the final 10 minutes and SMC edged the Bears, 27-24, Saturday on a sold-out Witter Rugby Field.
Cal inside center Anthony Salaber picked off a pass for a 45-meter try at minute 21, sophomore flanker Nic Mirhashem finished a lineout maul for a try at minute 62, and two of the Bears’ five freshmen on the field, wing Sam Cusano and scrumhalf Keanu Andrade, added tries in the 19th and 40th minutes for the Bears (14-3, 5-0 PAC). Flyhalf Russell Webb, who tried an unsuccessful drop kick from 30 meters before halftime, made 2-of-4 conversions to round out Cal’s scoring.
The Gaels’ scoring was topped by outside center Aaron Matthews, who recorded two tries for SMC (9-1, 3-0 Calif.) in the final 10 minutes. Saint Mary’s opened the scoring with an unconverted try from winger Chris McDonnell, who reeled in a corner chip from Mike McCarthy at minute 19, and fullback Dylan Audsley finished 3-for-3 on conversions and 2-for-4 on penalty attempts.
The Bears had a lead in the first half after No. Drew Gaffney’s rumble to midfield on a counterattack set up Cusano’s try, and Cal managed to build a surplus on the scoreboard despite first-half struggles in set pieces, scrums and lineouts that put the home side under pressure. Determination at the breakdown and hard charges with ball in hand, however, looked like they could help the Blue and Gold emerge from the fierce contest with a win. But as the match approached the 70-minute mark, playing into the wind with the setting sun in their faces, the Bears were unable to find touch or keep possession in key moments, allowing SMC to emerge with the victory.
“We all know Saint Mary’s is a good rugby team and they didn’t need any help from us, but unfortunately we mostly handed them the match at the end,” said head coach Jack Clark. “We were too speculative with offloads and kicked them some balls we want back. We took an 11-point lead into the last 10 minutes and gave the match away from there. Now, credit Saint Mary’s, they were good. They have some excellent players that have some good experience under their belts.”
“It was a good game and then we just let ourselves down at the end,” concurred prop Kevin Sullivan, whose performance included several impressive runs but one errant offload as Cal struggled in the match’s closing minutes. The Bears elected to attack from their own try zone in another sequence that led to Matthews’ first try when Webb’s pass down the line went awry and the Gaels capitalized. “There were too many 50-50 balls in the air,” said Sullivan.
“We didn’t execute and pull it off,” said Webb. “Heart and effort are expected, and we can’t fault those in us today. We just didn’t execute in the final stage of the match.”
In the reserve-grade contest following the First XV, Cal defeated Saint Mary’s, 45-32.
With the regular season concluded, Cal turns its focus to the homestretch of the academic semester and the national postseason for 15s, which gets underway for the Bears in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship quarterfinals on April 15. Following a first-round bye, Cal will visit either Dartmouth or Clemson in the single-elimination tournament. If Cal advances, the Bears will host a national semifinal on Saturday, April 22, on Witter Rugby Field. The Varsity Cup national championship final is set for May 6 at 12 p.m. PT in Stevens Stadium at Santa Clara University, followed June 3-4 by the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s in Philadelphia.
The Scoring Timeline vs. Saint Mary’s
15:00 SMC (Chris McDonnell) 5, (Dylan Audsley) 2
19:00 Sam Cusano 5
21:00 Anthony Salaber 5, Russell Webb 2
28:00 SMC (Dylan Audsley ) 3
40:00 Keanu Andrade 5, Russell Webb 2
Haft-time Score: California 19, Saint Mary’s 10
54:00 SMC (Dylan Audsley) 3
62:00 Nic Mirhashem 5
69:00 SMC (Aaron Matthews) 5, (Dylan Audsley) 2
76:00 SMC (Aaron Matthews) 5, (Dylan Audsley) 2
Final Score: Saint Mary’s 27, California 24
The Team vs. Saint Mary’s
15. Goena, 14. Cusano, 13. Barrientes, 12. Salaber, 11. Fuller, 10. R. Webb, 9. Andrade, 1. Sullivan, 2. Holland (Ogburn @ 40:00), 3. Baylor (Wiley @ 40:00), 4. Sweet, 5. Paylor, 6. Spradling, 7. Mirhashem, 8. Gaffney