Saint Mary's Finishes Homestand with a 106-15 Defeat of Santa Clara | By: Christian Portillo

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MORAGA, CALIF. - For their second match of California Conference play, Saint Mary’s took on the Santa Clara University Touring Side on a beautiful day for rugby at Saint Mary’s Stadium.

Saint Mary’s scored 16 tries on the day and Dylan Audsley successfully converted 13 of them on the way to 106 points. Chris McDonnell led the way with four tries while both Alec Barton and  Mike Wallace had two tries each. 11 different players scored a try for the Gaels.

For the Santa Clara University Touring Side, both Adam Leonard and Nick Russo had tries. Matt Fitzgerald made one conversion and one penalty goal.

Less than one minute into the match, Alec Barton picked up a loose ball deflected by Santa Clara winger Nick Russo near the left side of the try zone and patiently took it in for the first try of the match.

Santa Clara responded four-and-half minutes later when centre Adam Leonard scored a try on the left side of the pitch to even the score up at 5-5. Matt Fitzgerald successfully made the conversion to give the Broncos the lead, 7-5. By taking the lead, Santa Clara became the first team that Saint Mary’s has trailed to this season.

The Broncos’ lead would be short-lived. About six minutes after Santa Clara’s try, Saint Mary’s regained the lead on a well-executed sequence that saw the Gaels spread the field wide after an Aaron Matthews ruck, decisively pass the ball, and ultimately score a try by senior Chris McDonnell. After missing his first attempt, Dylan Audsley made his second conversion attempt to give the Gaels a 12-7 lead and jump start a 28-0 run.

Although Santa Clara was able to stick with Saint Mary’s for the beginning of the match by slowing things down, the Gaels figured them out sooner than later. When the Broncos were on the attack, they could not break the line and continually lost ground because they could not break the Gaels’ solid tackling, which kept pushing the Broncos back. The Gaels were just too strong and too much for the Broncos and it was only a matter of time before it showed on the field.

Saint Mary’s started to pull away five minutes after McDonnell’s try when Henry Hall assisted Tommy Wallace for a converted try on the left side of the pitch. Mike McCarthy added to this lead by scoring just to the left of the goalpost after his initial spin move led to a Saint Mary’s ruck. Audsley’s conversion expanded the lead to 26-7.

Saint Mary’s was awarded a scrum after Santa Clara’s lineout pass was not straight. Ever so lethal from the scrum, the Gaels spread out wide and passed the ball back as if it was a hot potato to place it in Chris McDonnell’s hands, who proceeded to have a good run. However, when he tried to offload it to Tommy Wallace on the left wing, the ball went straight to a Santa Clara player’s hands, but he dropped the ball, which allowed McDonnell to kick it all the way to the back of the try zone and run after it. As the ball was about to go past the back end of the try zone, McDonnell caught up to it and managed to touch it down for the try! It was a crazy sequence that Dylan Audsley capped off with a successful conversion that gave the Gaels a 33-7 lead.  

From being up 7-5 to now being down 7-33 in what seemed to be a blink of an eye, the Broncos must have been demoralized. A big reason for this was their inability to capitalize on the Gaels’ mistakes and penalties via lineouts and scrums. Santa Clara lost six of their first eight lineouts to the Gaels and certainly paid the price. The Broncos finally made the Gaels pay for one of their mistakes by scoring three points via Matt Fitzgerald’s penalty goal to make the score 33-10.

But the Gaels were not quite done yet. With under five minutes remaining in the first half, Dylan Audsley had a nice little run on the left side of the pitch, was tackled and started a ruck, which the Gaels took advantage of by spreading out wide and swinging the ball to the right side. Henry Hall then got his second assist of the half on an offload to Chris McDonnell, who scored on the right side and finished the half with a hat trick. Audsley’s conversion gave Saint Mary’s a 40-10 advantage heading into halftime.

Saint Mary’s was hot in the second half, rolling out nineteen consecutive points before Santa Clara could respond. It all started less than one-and-a-half minute into the half, when team captain Kevin O’Connor assisted Alec Barton for a try right up the middle. Audsley successfully converted Barton’s second try of the match. About three minutes later, Holden Yungert kicked a perfectly placed ball for Tommy Wallace to get on the left sideline, who then offloaded it back to Yungert, who proceeded to score a try. Three minutes after this instance, Mike Wallace received a pass from Mike McCarthy after a scrum and broke free all the way to the middle of the pitch for the try. Audsley’s conversion extended the lead to 59-10 and capped off the Gaels’ 19-0 run to start the second half.

Santa Clara’s big break came when left winger Nick Russo intercepted an offload and took it all the way down the right sideline to the house for the Broncos’ second and final try of the match, giving them 15 points on the day.

From this point on, it was a complete blowout as Saint Mary’s scored 47 in a row to finish the game on a strong note. Vili Helu scored a converted try after a lineout at the five metre line. Helu then assisted Mike Wallace on the right side for his second converted try of the match. Freshman Payton Telea participated in the fun by scoring a converted try right up the gut to extend the Gaels’ lead to 80-15.

Chris McDonnell, who already had a hat trick in the first half, was not done leaving his mark on the match. He used his quick first step in a jab-like motion to fake out his defender, then faked a pass before passing to Marcus Viscardi, who cut inside from the right sideline to score a converted try in the middle.

After hitting all but two conversions on the day, Dylan Audsley found himself in the left side of the try zone with just over nine minutes remaining in the match. Unfortunately, he missed this conversion but was still 13-16 on conversion attempts overall. Holt Johnstone was rewarded for his persistence when he scored a converted try of his own after an extra effort got him into the right side of the try zone.

McDonnell was aggressively tackled into touch and did not appreciate such a hard hit so late into the game with an 85 point spread. He got into it with Santa Clara’s Daniel Pusack but ultimately let his play do the talking for him. Vili Helu found himself in a one-on-one situation and offloaded the ball with one hand to McDonnell, who scored his fourth try of the match. Audsley’s perfect conversion gave the Gaels a 106-15 lead, which was the final score.

The Santa Clara University Touring Side will play #2 Cal Berkeley at Bellomy Field at Santa Clara University next Saturday, February 4th, at 1:00 P.M.

This match marked the end of the Gaels’ four match homestand during the month of January, which they finished undefeated and only gave up a total of 27 points (including two shutouts) while scoring 351 points. This averages out to scoring 87.75 points a game while allowing opponents to score only 6.75 points. Saint Mary’s plays next Saturday, February 4th, against the #15 Air Force at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. They will then have the next week off before they prepare to battle the powerhouse that is #4 BYU at home on Saturday, February 18th.