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Life Completes California Trip with Game Against Saint Mary's

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Life Completes California Trip with Game Against Saint Mary's

Life University's tour of California ended with a loss to the Life West men's club and, on Monday night, a last-second victory for Saint Mary's.

Saint Mary's took an early lead but two Life tries put the Running Eagles up at halftime. Life built their lead to 26-7 with 15 minutes to go before Saint Mary's ran in two tries to close to 26-21. A Life penalty made it 29-21, but Saint Mary's added a converted try with less than five minutes to go and then won it with a penalty goal.

This was a key early high-rankings matchup.

Saint Mary's opened the scoring in the 6th minute with wing Antoine de La Fontaine going over. Karl Keane converted for the 7-0 lead. It took a while for Life to respond but Darius Law was able to get over the line midway through the first half and David Rimes scored later in the first period. Bradley Crane converted one and it was 12-7 Life at the break.

With Saint Mary's making some errors—"we couldn't get out of our own way at times," said Gaels Head Coach Tim O'Brien—Life was happy to punish them with tries from prop Chulu Mngxaso and Orrin Bizer, both converted by Crane, and Life led 26-7. After that, with about 20 minutes to go, Saint Mary's started to play a bit better.

"We played with more inhibition," said O'Brien. "We moved the ball a lot better and we scored two tries in six minutes."

Junior Waqavesi and Lleyton Delzell each scored a try and Keane converted both to make it 26-21 Life. Crane added a penalty, and then Saint Mary's reserve Josh Allen, who had made a positive impact already, got a try with perhaps four minutes remaining—the Gaels scoring right after the restart following Crane's penalty. Keane was good on the conversion and it was 29-28 Life. Then with time almost up the teams scrummed down about ten meters inside the Life half. Life was penalized at the scrum and Keane lined up the kick and put it over to win the game 31-29.

"What a great way to begin the season," said O'Brien, whose team has played (and beaten) the North American Rugby Academy (NARA) and NorCal Grizzlies before this game. Life has played Atlanta Old White and Davenport, both victories, before facing Life West on Saturday. "It was great to have them come out and we will certainly reciprocate. They are such a good team and it's just really valuable for us to be able to play them."

For Life, the trip, despite the two losses, or perhaps because of them, was enormously valuable.

"Against Life West we got to play against that West Coast men's club style which we never get to play against, and that was the point," said Life Head Coach Colton Cariaga. "And against Saint Mary's, again we got to play against a really good team that plays a different way. Both games were in stadiums. Saint Mary's did a really good job of adjusting to us, which is why they came back, and I think with the pressure they were putting on our scrum, that ending was a deserved ending for them."

But a close loss can be useful, sometimes more useful than a close win.

"Having a game like that shows you what kind of team you are, and if having it end that way helps crystalize our work-ons, then I think that's a good tradeoff," said Cariaga. "We had a lot of question-marks at the beginning of the season and we got a lot of answers after this weekend. We're just so grateful to be able to play them."