In Men’s Rugby, Gaels Respond with Urgency to Overcome UCLA 58–5

Saint Mary’s displayed proficient teamwork and profound speed with the win over the Bruins on Saturday.

by Forrest Page ’25, Club Sports | February 18, 2024

Spectators gathered at the Saint Mary's Stadium on Saturday, February 17 with preparations for rainy weather during the Men’s Rugby matchup against the UCLA Bruins. And they witnessed a thunderous win by the Gaels’ A-Side.

The match began with UCLA kicking off to Saint Mary’s and the Bruin offense gaining momentum by frequently putting the Gaels behind their 22-field line. The Gaels responded with urgency and made good use of penalties called against UCLA. Back-and-forth possession between the two teams had the fans eager to see who would score first. UCLA hooker Samuel Mcmillan and wing Niko Cortessis did well on offense, both making it to Gaels’ try zone before getting stopped in their tracks by the SMC defense.

Dominic Besag looks to pass th rugby ball
Looking to Pass: Dominic Besag '26 running through UCLA's defense / Photo by Rebecca Harper

The alternating possession subsided once the Gaels gained and maintained possession and capitalized on the weak side of UCLA's defense. At the nine-minute mark of the game, lock Lleyton Delzell MA ’24 scored the first points in the match. The Bruins continued to push SMC's defense and were inches away from the Saint Mary’s try zone before being stopped by Gaels’ forward pack. With 20 minutes left in the first half, a sequence of impressive offloads moved the ball wide to right wing Jake Negrete MA ’24 for a try. Gaels fullback Mario Storti ’25 made the conversion kick; he proved to be a key offensive piece in Saturday’s match, making a majority of the conversions. 

Mario Storti kicks for the conversion during the rugby game
Conversion Good: Mario Storti ’25 scores on the kick after the try scored by Jake Negrete MA '24. / Photo by Rebecca Harper

Saint Mary’s center Dominic Besag ‘26 did not disappoint either. He appeared to be all over the field  as a playmaker and was an absolute tank on offense. With 14 minutes left in the first half, Besag outran multiple Bruins across the length of the field. The first half ended with a try from Erich Storti MA ’24 and Mario Storti ’25 after flyhalf Sosia Pongi ‘26 exhibited excellent offensive work and cheeky offloads.

The second half was equally eventful. Possession stayed mainly in the hands of the Gaels. And yet another try from Mario Storti ’25 brought the score to 43–0. 

Men's Rugby v UCLA
Prospective Players: The Danville Oaks Rugby spectators watch intently as the Gaels push for the try zone.  With over 100 in attendance, local youth teams were invited to experience a Gael Rugby match as a player on the sideline. / Photo by Rebecca Harper

After a lot of work all over the field, Iosefa Toiaivao ‘26 made a try for the Gaels. Bruins flanker Ira Lin the scored for UCLA, putting the tally at 53–5 in favor of the Gaels. Saint Mary’s 8-man King Matu ’24 put in an incredible amount of work the entire game on both defense and offense while making all the difference on set pieces. Matu made the last try of the game, bringing the final score to 58–5 Saint Mary’s.

Continued Speed During the B-Side Match-up

During the B-side match-up, both teams showed tremendous effort and performed especially well for the rainy weather. Saint Mary]s center Tristan McAlister ’24 played a blinder of a game, scoring the first try of the game and many more throughout the match. His aggression on offense had the UCLA defense on their heels after he put his shoulder down only a few times. 

Ethan Taufa looks to pass the rugby ball
Successful Completion: Ethan Taufa '25 passes to a  teammate during the B-side matchup against UCLA. / Photo by Rebecca Harper

Gaels 8-man Ethan Taufa ’25 ran unstoppable lines and surprised the Bruins off scrums and lineouts.  Taufa scored with 31 minutes left in the first half, putting the score at 12–0 in favor of the Gaels. Shortly after, Saint Mary’s flyhalf Iosefa Toiaivao ‘26 intercepted the ball inside the Saint Mary’s half and ran it upfield for a try, bringing the score to 19–0. That was followed by great trys from Saint Mary’s players Taufa, Tristan McAlister ’24, Garrison Williams ’26, and Zach Allen ’24. UCLA managed to put a couple of points on the board before Saint Mary’s flanker Joey Manzone ’27 scored the last try of the match, leaving the score 53–14 in favor of the Gaels.  

William Lhommedieu runs towards the try line during the rugby game
One Step Ahead: William Lhommedieu ’26 outraces a UCLA defender to reach for the try zone. / Photo by Rebecca Harper


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READ MORE:  In Men’s Rugby, Gaels Defeat Boston College Eagles in the Inaugural Teddy Smith Classic