GRR on X  GRR on Facebook GRR in Instagram GRR Vimeo Library GRR on YouTube RuggaMatrix America Podcasts Support GRR on Patreon

Cal v St. Mary's Classic Rivalry Game

irish rugby tours

Cal v St. Mary's Classic Rivalry Game

Cal won last year's game, but the teams have been trading home wins for the past four years. Michael Geib photo.

It’s a busy weekend of rugby around the country and especially in Nevada, but there’s the little matter of one of the enduring rivalries in Men’s College Rugby - Cal v St. Mary’s.

It’s a rivalry that carries the right measure of emotion without boiling over, especially since St. Mary’s for years was one of the few programs carrying the torch of no fear against the Cal Bears. There were years when everyone had chalked up Cal as the presumptive champion, and the Gaels had faced off with Cal in a way that said “we will make you earn it.”

It’s been the most entertaining part of an entertaining rivalry.

“We are always excited to play a good opponent. It’s a challenge but a fun challenge,” said Cal Head Coach Jack Clark, adding that he wish St. Mary’s was in the Varsity Cup (a sentiment St. Mary’s Coach Tim O’Brien might echo with regard to Cal being in DIA). “They are a talented, well-coached team.”

Cal and St. Mary’s have had their injury woes, but both are deep enough to weather the difficulties. The Bears expect to see Scott Walsh, Michael Bush, and Tomas Zerbino back in the lineup, but there remain questions in the backline. Certainly Anthony Salaber, who has been a central figure in the Cal midfield, will be there.

Meanwhile, St. Mary’s is coming off a 30-29 loss to BYU that showed what they can do against even the toughest opponent. But it also cost them, as several players suffered injuries and were sidelined at least for last week’s game against UC Santa Barbara. 

But the players are more concerned with how they could have been better against BYU.

“Looking back on it, we left some points out there,” said No. 8 Kevin O’Connor. “We played out of our pattern for the first 60 minutes, and then to give up a try in the first two minutes of the second half was tough.”

Mike McCarthy made some big tackles in the game, and O’Connor said that sort of bravery will be needed this weekend. But they also need some precision.

“For us, restarts were one of the big takeaways from the BYU game,” said O’Connor. “You can’t give them possession like that. We know we have a lot to work on. BYU attacked our lineouts too, so [looking ahead to Cal] we need to take care of our set piece.”

But at the same time, O’Connor said, the BYU game showed his team’s heart.

“We have a lot of confidence in our ability to score, and we just chipped, chipped away at them. We thought we had enough time, but we didn’t quite have it.”

This isn’t a game for anything - the teams play in separate conferences and pursue separate post-seasons. But still it means something to the players. Many of them played with and against each other in California HS competition, and with the schools separated by about 25 miles, they track each other’s progress continuously. Cal doesn’t lose to many domestic college teams, but they have lost to St. Mary’s, and they don’t like it. St. Mary’s doesn’t like losing much, either.

Kickoff is slated for 1pm Saturday at St. Mary’s Stadium. 

The game will be streamed live here.