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Cal Faces Saint Mary's in Storied Rivalry

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Cal Faces Saint Mary's in Storied Rivalry

Cal and Saint Mary's split their games last year, with Cal winning the key quarterfinal matchup. David Barpal photo.

Decades-long rivals Saint Mary's and Cal meet up in Moragain a game that has massive playoff and rankings implications.

After losing games to BYU and Army, Cal has once again performed a turnaround, beating #1-ranked Navy in Berkeley last week to shake up the entire D1A pecking order.

Saint Mary's meanwhile has as much claim to the #1 spot at the moment as anyone. Undefeated and having beaten BYU (a team that beat Cal), the Gaels are once again playing high-octane rugby.

How these two teams go about their business carry few similarities.

"We are polar opposites in many ways," said Saint Mary's Head Coach Tim O'Brien.

The Gaels are coming off a win at Provo in a SMC-BYU matchup that O'Brien called "the highlight of our season. They are a great program and we have a great relationship with their coaches. We learn a lot from them, as well."

In the first half against BYU, the Gaels made five key errors in their half, and BYU scored ion three of them.

"You look at the teams like BYU, Cal, Central Washington, and these are all teams that can beat you on any day. The play these teams one after another is really exciting."

Cal vs Saint Mary's KO 1PM PT 4PM ET on The Rugby Network>>

Cal and Saint Mary’s met twice last year, most recently in Moraga on April 15, 2023 in the D1A national quarterfinals. The Bears edged the Gaels 29-28 to advance to the semifinals, in which they would go on to defeat BYU to punch their ticket to the title match against Navy (which Navy won). The Gaels pulled ahead in the contest with back-to-back tries to open up the day’s scoring, taking a 21-12 lead into halftime, but the Bears stormed back with a dominant second half performance putting up 17-straight points and hold the Gaels to one converted try in the second period to clinch the victory.

The Bears and the Gaels also played a regular-season match on March 25, 2023 in Berkeley. The Gaels held the first advantage in the contest, taking a 26-19 lead into the halftime break. The Bears fought back with a strong offensive push to create a 34-26 lead midway through the second period. Saint Mary’s put up two tries to reclaim the lead at minute 66, and held onto the advantage for a scoreless final 14 minutes of the match to secure the win.

This weekend, the Bears will be without several starters who have been ruled unavailable due to injury. Sophomore sensation Max Threlkeld was transported from the field during last weekend’s match due to a head collision and will remain out indefinitely. Also leaving with injury against Navy was co-captain Will Shankland. Senior second rower Pat Deely will be out and starting flanker Jon Puckett will remain unavailable for the second-straight game. The Bears are hopeful to get Hugo Schreuder back into the forward pack, but his status is uncertain.

“We’re looking forward to playing another tough opposition this Saturday,” said Cal co-captain Charlie Walsh. “These back-to-back high-level games present the great challenge of performing at a consistent level. We’ve been working hard this week to improve, and can’t wait to play this weekend.”

"People have turned it into a big game," added O'Brien. "Maybe it is something larger, but at the end of the day it's a game against a really tough opponent where you top guys have to be great and everyone else has to maybe play their best games of the year."