In Men's Rugby, the Gaels Defeat Grand Canyon in the First Round of Playoffs. Next up: Quarter Finals vs. Cal.

No. 1 seeded Saint Mary’s scores a resounding 78–7 playoff win over the Lopes. Now the Gaels prepare for repeat carnage against the UC Berkeley Bears on April 13.

by Aidan Payne-Kraus '25 | April 7, 2024

In the first round of Division 1A Men’s Rugby playoffs, No. 1 seed Saint Mary’s scored a resounding 78–7 win over Grand Canyon University on the Gaels’ home turf on April 6. Now the Gaels are primed for a repeat battle against rival UC Berkeley on April 13. In regular season play, just two weeks ago Saint Mary’s defeated Cal 38–31 in front of a 3,000+ crowd in Moraga. 

In the April 6 playoff game, the Lopes came bursting out of the gates with a load of energy, capitalizing on some early sluggish play from the Gaels. Exploiting two penalties from Saint Mary's, GCU maneuvered through multiple phases of pick and go to snatch an early 7–0 lead.

However, the Gaels swiftly regrouped and were determined to rectify their early errors. Grand Canyon continued to threaten deep inside the Gaels’ territory, but SMC delivered a crucial defensive stand, forcing a turnover for the Lopes. Soon after, Sione Ofa ’27 found expanding open space, leading to the first points on the board for Saint Mary’s. Mario Storti ’25 leveled the score at 7 with a flawless conversion.

Sione Ofa runs to the try line during the Men's rugby Match
First points: No. 7 flanker Sione Ofa ’27 finds the open space on the field to score for the Gaels. / Photo by Rebecca Harper

Building on that momentum, the Gaels continued to aggressively fight back, and with another try Sione Ofa erased GCU’s early advantage. From there on out, Grand Canyon never managed to find the try line; for the remainder of the game, it was Saint Mary’s on the prowl, racking up point after point on the scoreboard.

The Gaels displayed their trademark fluidity and spectacular open play. One turnover at midfield sparked a scintillating attacking sequence, culminating in Tatum Pappas ’27 crossing the line in the corner. The Gaels wasted no time building on that, with Jake Negrete ’23, MA ’24 dotting down for another try just minutes later.

Tatum Pappas runs into the try zone for Men's Rugby
Try zone: Tatum Pappas ’27 earns points as the Gaels build their lead. / Photo by Rebecca Harper

With GCU grappling to contain the now relentless onslaught, Saint Mary’s asserted their dominance, with Mario Storti slotting two more tries before the break, converting both to extend the Gaels’ lead to 38–7. Despite the Lopes’ efforts, they found themselves overwhelmed by the Gaels’ offense, and it was evident Saint Mary’s had firmly seized control. 

Rugby player kicking the ball
Aim for perfection: Fullback Mario Storti ’25 attempts the conversion for extra points. / Photo by Rebecca Harper

King Matu ’24, John Wilson ’26, Mathew Abbes ’26, Nate Deegan ’26, Ethan Younger ’27, and Cade Lujan ’24 all etched their names on the scoresheet in the second half, with Mario Storti adding conversions to the majority of the tries. The final whistle blew with Saint Mary’s emerging triumphant with a 78–7 victory.

Ethan Younger carries the rugby ball
Eyes Locked In: Ethan Younger '27 stares down his opponent in an attempt to dodge past the defender during the Men's Rugby Game against Grand Canyon University at Saint Mary's College. / Photo by Rebecca Harper

Gaels vs. Cal in the Quarter Finals

With eyes set on the next match, Saint Mary’s advances in the Division 1A College Rugby Association of America playoffs to a quarter-final match against University of California, Berkeley at home on Saturday, April 13, at 1 p.m. The Golden Bears defeated Cal Poly on April 6 to advance in the playoffs. So just three weeks after Saint Mary’s beat Cal in the regular season, the Gaels will host the Bears again—in the next confrontation in collegiate Men's Rugby battle of the Bay Area.

Visit the Game Information & Resources website for the match against UC Berkeley on April 13. 

SMC Trys: Sione Ofa ’27 (2), Tatum Pappas ’27, Jake Negrete ’23, MA ’24, Mario Storti ’25 (2), King Matu ’24, John Battle Wilson ’26, Mathew Abbes ’26, Nate Deegan ’26, Ethan Younger ’27, and Cade Lujan ’25

SMC Conversions: Nine for Mario Storti ‘25

rugby playoffs

READ MORE: In Men’s Rugby, Final Regular Season Win Against Utah Valley University Preps the Gaels for Playoffs

Men’s Rugby Defeats Cal and Is in Place to Take the No. 1 Seed Just in Time for Playoffs

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