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Massive Rivalry Clash - Cal Hosts Saint Mary's

    

College Men

Massive Rivalry Clash - Cal Hosts Saint Mary's

Cal defeated Saint Mary's 27-14 when they met last spring. Michael Geib photo.

It has to be rivalry weekend as one of the longest-standing college rugby matchups meets up this weekend.

Cal hosts Saint Mary’s, and the game will be on the Pac-12 Networks, live for some and on delay for others. If you’ve got access to any Pac-12 network you can watch online using the Pac-12 Now app. Kickoff is 5pm at Witter Rugby Field at Cal.

Cal comes into the game having won the PAC Rugby Conference with a 5-0 record, but also having lost two games against their other massive rivals, UBC. The Bears have been moving their lineup around and will be without No. 8 Thomas Robles and fullback Troy Lockyear, who are out for the season with injuries.

Cal's maturing process will continue in the front row, where the Bears have started one or more freshman and sophomore in 14 of their 16 matches this spring. Freshman Sid Holland could be the choice to start at hooker, where he may bind onto props Kevin Sullivan and Henry Baylor. Selections for the second row, which have ranged across the class years this spring, appear to be coming down to senior Connor Sweet and sophomore Robert Paylor. The back row could be a key area in Saturday's matchup, where Cal is projected to start freshman Thomas Spradling and sophomore Nic Mirashem at flankers, and senior Drew Gaffney at No. 8. 

The Bears backline will feature Keanu Andrade or Fawzi Kawash, Scholz Award nomine Russell Webb at flyhalf, 2016 Scholz nominee Anthony Salaber, and the always dangerous Patrick Barrientes, who returns from injury for his first start since mid-February. The deep three for the Blue and Gold could include freshman Sam Cusano and William Fuller on the wings, paired Jake Goena at fullback. 

For Saint Mary’s, they are looking healthy, but we will see Ethan Waller coming in at hooker, having worked to reclaim his starting #2 jersey. The Gaels back row is excellent with Vili Helu, Alec Barton, and Kevin O’Connor all one of the best in the country at their position.

In the backline, 2016 Scholz Award Winner and 2017 nominee Dylan Audsley has been strong at fullback. He’s a dangerous attacker, but of late has made his biggest mark on defense and in kicking for goal. Aaron Matthews, Holden Yungert, and Mike McCarthy round out a dangerous backline. However, injury has hit the Gaels on the wing.

Saint Mary’s is coming off a loss at BYU that was centered on a series of big plays by BYU and crucial errors by Saint Mary’s. The team met the next day to parse out the video and the players did the notation on the game (the B team led 17-0 against BYU’s Bs, and then lost, and the Gaels B-siders did the same with their game film). It was, said Head Coach Tim O’Brien, a difficult, sometimes tough-to-take, and honest breakdown of the game. 

“We had tackling problems, losing the ball on the goal line, and for me blown assignments in the midfield are big.”

They need to fix all of that to defeat Cal at Cal. Witter Field promises to be packed, the game will be on television, and the atmosphere will be intense.

“Guys who were on the team that beat Cal many years ago still talk about it,” said O’Brien. “It is an enormous challenge to play there.