Gaels Finish Regular Season with 80-3 Defeat of Sacramento State | By: Christian Portillo
MORAGA, CALIF. - A week after leaving Berkeley victorious after an emotional roller coaster of a win over Cal at Witter Rugby Field, Saint Mary’s returned home to finish the regular season against the Sacramento State Hornets. In a total contrast of environments, the atmosphere at Saint Mary’s Stadium was very relaxed and laissez-faire. The match actually started about ten minutes earlier than the slated start time of 1:00 P.M.
Many of the usual starters got a well-deserved rest and this simultaneously gave the seniors who don’t get too much time on the pitch their opportunity to shine and show that their four years of hard work have paid off. Senior Canon Marin started the absolutely gorgeous day off with an offload to Charlie Loudon, who scored the first try of the match. Mike McCarthy, in place of the resting Dylan Audsley, is a good kicker himself and made the conversion to give the Gaels an early 7-0 lead.
Sacramento State’s Dylan Bennett was pretty confident of his own boot and attempted two early penalty goals, from the 22 and 40 metre line, respectively, but missed both.
Tommy Wallace, ever the speedster, put the afterburners on to cut to the right side of the field before offloading it behind and through a Hornet to fellow senior Frank Matia, who took it in for a converted try in the middle.
Even after missing his first two attempts, Sacramento State’s Dylan Bennett went for another penalty goal from the 40 metre line and made it to make the score 14-3 in favor of the Gaels.
Scrum-half Chris McDonnell found himself all alone with one defender in open territory and beat his man before offloading it to hooker Ethan Waller, who assisted Mike McCarthy for the try. McCarthy, who has been outstanding all season long, hit his third conversion of the half to give the Gaels a 21-3 lead heading into halftime.
But the Gaels were just getting started. Saint Mary’s was quick to recognize that the Hornets preferred to keep the ball rather than pass and proceeded to adjust their defense accordingly. Save for the occasional breakout, the Hornets were stuck at the line. In addition, Saint Mary’s won many lineouts and as usual, dominated the scrums. Sensing that the Hornets were starting to lose their sting, an offensive explosion from the Gaels was waiting to happen.
Explosion actually might be an understatement. Saint Mary’s scored 59 consecutive unanswered points in the second half to finish the regular season with a bang. It all started less than a minute into the half when Peter Walden received an assist from Mike McCarthy and dove in for the try on the right side of the goalposts. Freshman Ronan Murphy, who deflected several Hornets’ lineouts, had a nice run that enabled Austin Middleton to assist senior Frank Matia, who started in the right corner but stepped inside to the middle to score the try. After seventeen minutes of idle play, Middleton was the one doing the scoring on the right side as he received an offload from Charlie Loudon after a ruck. Vicente Cunha-Vaz took over the kicking duties for McCarthy and impressed mightily. He nailed his first of seven conversions to give Saint Mary’s a 38-3 lead.
Chris McDonnell, who had set an excellent pace for the game as a scrum-half, scored a converted try at the try line on the left side to extend the Gaels’ lead to 45-3.
Winger Derek Ellingson started his run on the left side and made a nifty move to the middle that left his defender in the dust with broken ankles before diving in for the converted try.
With just over five minutes left in the game, the fireworks started to explode. Mike McCarthy stole a Hornets’ pass and offloaded it Charlie Loudon near the halfway line, who took it all the way down the sideline after shredding the lone defender in his path for his second converted try of the afternoon.
About two minutes later, senior Mike Garrett passed to Alejandro Duran, who appeared to lose his footing but somehow maintained his balance long enough to score a converted try that put Saint Mary’s up 66-3.
Thomas Brusatti added to the try-fest with a converted try of his own. Mike McCarthy appropriately sealed the deal with his second converted try of the afternoon to finish the game at a score of 80-3.
In the last regular season match, Saint Mary’s was able to display the hard work of the lesser-known seniors while simultaneously showcasing the young talent currently on the B-Side. This bodes well for the future of the program, as Vicente Cunha-Vaz’s perfect day from a conversion standpoint makes him a worthy heir to Audsley’s throne as one of the best kickers in the nation.
The future is bright for Gael Rugby but the focus is on the present moment. Having gone 10-1 in the regular season, the Gaels will now embark on the Spring Tour to Ireland and Scotland over Spring Break. The team will leave the country on April 9th to bond, play four matches, and learn from some of the best rugby minds in the world as they prepare for the playoffs, which begin at Saint Mary’s Stadium on April 22nd.