Gaels First Test

Gaels First Test | by Nico Docolas

SMC A Side vs UCSC

After a miserable week of cold and wet weather in the isolated hills of Moraga, California, the
sun shined brightly on a triumphant Saint Mary’s Gaels Rugby Program. Facing the University
of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), today was the Gaels’ first test since one of the most
captivating seasons in the program’s history, embodied by a 2017 D1A National Championship
trophy.
It took merely three minutes for the Gaels to penetrate the try-zone, with an impressive display
of ball movement and dynamic attack leading to a brilliant score from recently converted
fullback, Mike Wallace. Saint Mary’s starting back three, comprised of Tom Wallace (Wing),
Mike Wallace (Fullback), and Charlie Loudon (Wing) accounted for six Gael scores throughout
the day. The Gaels’ fluid and spectacular ball movement allowed the audience to assess the
threatening speed of this experienced back line.
The Gaels’ forward pack, even after the devastating losses of All-Americans Kevin O’Connor
and Henry Hall, dominated on every front of the game. Under the instruction of renowned
forwards coach, John Everett, their set piece plays looked better than ever. The aggression the
Gael forwards were injecting during rucks, scrums, and lineouts allowed ball time to
(excessively) be in their favor. This, in turn, allowed the back line to flourish. However, it was
not just the speedy outside runners who thrived with ball-in-hand today – Sophomore Lock,
Ronan Murphy, exhibited his lethal speed, strength, and elusiveness with a gorgeous score.
Additionally, senior Vili Helu added a magnificent fifty meter try to remind those spectating why
he is considered a world class player.
The sheer fitness of the Gaels and the unpredictable nature of their attack was poorly met by a
developing UCSC program, with the final score reaching 157-0.
As the final score indicates, defensively, the Gaels had few to no lapses. Though UCSC had
players capable of penetrating the Gaels, the intensity brought from their opposition caused an
excess of forced passes, unneeded turnovers, and overall sloppy play. Moving forward UCSC
needs to build confidence during the early phases of the game with more structured attack –
committing turnovers early on can be devastatingly costly against top teams. Defensively, UCSC
were put on their back foot within the 2nd minute of play, and unfortunately after that the Gaels
never took the pedal off the gas.
After six long months without Gael rugby, today serves as a reminder that this team is truly
something special.