Goff Rugby Twitter     Goff Rugby Facebook

A Few College Games This Weekend, but Questions to Answer

irish rugby tours

A Few College Games This Weekend, but Questions to Answer

Cal Poly has a tough test this week. Photo Cal Poly Rugby.

The men's college lineup of games this week was going to be a bit bigger, however a shift in Florida and some COVID cancelations have changed things.

Originally the Florida DIAA was eyeing a January 22 start, but that was for an eight-team league, and it's now a seven-team league without Florida Gold Coast, so they will start January 29. Meanwhile, Santa Clara at Cal is off because of a positive test at Santa Clara, and University of San Diego has basically shut down its campus, so Western Washington won't be traveling there.

Arkansas State does face off with Dallas —more here >>— and a Cal Poly team that logged a couple of good results at the Storer Classic is set to host Saint Mary's.

Grand Canyon is young and working toward making an impact in the California Conference, and Utah Valley just wants more challenging games, so they've managed to fit that one in. Grand Canyon Head Coach Sean O'Leary said he's taking it step by step but it's clear he wants the 'Lopes to get some high-profile wins. Ethan Van Tonder has come in as a freshman to take control of the #10 jersey and his rugby understanding and his leadership has been glued a lot of the GCU pieces together. Yes they lost a close one to Colorado in the fall and beat an Arizona team in what was closer to a scrimmage than anything else, but O'Leary says he sees something in the group, which is eyeing some DIA playoff glory.

New Cal Poly Head Coach Chris O'Brien said the big thing about his team's performances at the Storer Classic is how the players reaction to challenges, especially in their 33-3 loss to Cal.

"It was good for them to see what the next level looks like, and it won't get any easier this week," said O'Brien. The Mustangs beat UCLA 22-5, Loyola Marymount 33-7, and Oregon 38-7 last week. Now they face a Saint Mary's team that, despite not getting to play last week, has impressed with wins over Life West, the USA Academy, and Life University in the fall.

"We're taking baby steps right now," said O'Brien, who will coach against his brother Tim, both former Eagles, on Saturday. Cal Poly's O'Brien praised his seniors, who have shown crucial leadership skills during the pandemic and the coaching changeover. Tighthead prop Jasper Stone has been a rock, but also has led the enthusiasm, keeping the players' intensity high as they wait to play.

Interestingly, there's key leadership up front for Saint Mary's. The Gaels graduated Payton Telea Ilalio and Ronan Murphy, and are looking to prop Joe Marchant as captain and leader. In the last almost-completed California Conference season, Saint Mary's won three games by more than 90, and beat Cal Poly 46-17. The consensus is that, overall, the conference is stronger top to bottom.

After losses at the Storer Classic new UCLA Head Coach Harry Bennett isn't too worked up. It will all take time, he said, and he had praise for his predecessor, Dave Clancy, for what Clancy had done on the recruiting side organizational side.  Bennett told GRR that he is in it for the long haul and while there is always pressure to win, right now what he wants to do is start to put things in place, and ask more of the players. He did that last week, and said he was pleased to see "they took on the challenge  and are starting to build that belief." UCLA hosts UC San Diego.

Check back for scores.

1/22 Dallas RFC 19-43 Arkansas State Non-Conference
1/22 Saint Mary's 73-5 Cal Poly California
1/22 Santa Clara Ppd California Non-Conference
1/22 Utah Valley 5-43 Grand Canyon Non-Conference
1/22 UCSD 0-74 UCLA Non-Conference