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Wins for Saint Mary's in Oxford; Trinity Next

irish rugby tours

Wins for Saint Mary's in Oxford; Trinity Next

Photo Sandi Allan.

Saint Mary's won the second game of their tour, defeating Oxford University 16-12.

The tour covers a week and includes Cambridge University, Oxford, and Trinity College of Dublin. Cambridge edged Saint Mary's 24-17 on Sunday. The Gaels, whose 2nds won comfortably  47-0, play Trinity on Saturday in Ireland.

The tour itself is run by Irish Rugby Tours, which organizes tours to Ireland and many other countries—England, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, South Africa, and more.  

Joe Yacoubian kicked thee penalties in the 1sts game, while freshman Dominic Besag's hard running produced his side's only try. Oxford scored a try late in the first half but had trouble breaking the Gaels' defense. A late try from the Blues put them within a point at 13-12 before Yacoubian's third penalty finished them off.

In the 2nds game, Saint Mary's was in control early. Anthony Richardson scored two tries while Sosaia Pongi, John Wilson, Zach Pua, Peter Murphy, and Hayden Bullatta also touched down. Hunter Modlin and Will Lhommedieu each converted three.

The games were played under the watchful eye of USA player Nick Civetta, who is working toward a graduate degree at Oxford. 

A Trinity-Saint Mary's Connection

While the coaches of Saint Mary's and Trinity, Tim O'Brien and Tony Smeeth, know each other well, there will be a nice player connection, too.

Judd Berman, who played at Torrey Pines HS and the San Diego Mustangs is now a freshman at Trinity College and plays for the college's U20 side. He was a rival and teammate of Dom Besage, now playing his freshman season for Saint Mary's Besag played for De La Salle, but the two met touring several times with Eagle Impact Rugby Academy, and both attended  the USA U18 High Performance Camp in Dec 2021 in Chula Vista.

They also played together for the San Diego Legion Academy Team and hang out outside of rugby, too.

But they will return to being opponents this weekend.

Gaels Show Improvement

It has been a tough few games for the American college team, and Head Coach Tim O'Brien wryly observed on Thursday that many of his players "look like they just played a game inside a dryer."

O'Brien, who spent the second half of the Oxford match sitting next to and chatting with legendary former Oxford coach Lynn Evans, said the whole idea of the tour is to learn, and an improved showing 

"We had some honest conversations about both [Cambridge] matches and addressing them at training helped. We are looking forward to training tomorrow at Trinity."

Meanwhile, Trinity has been paying attention.

"Saint Mary's are going brilliantly on tour," said Smeeth. "I heard they could have beaten Cambridge and beat Oxford last night; its so good that the games were one score matches. I wasn't sure what to expect when I organized the games and I am delighted they have been giving a good account of themselves and USA Rugby."

The Gaels arrive in Dublin today and have a day to acclimate before playing late Saturday morning. Smeeth's 1sts are playing Cambridge on Friday night and Irish Universities have a training camp this weekend because they play France in a week, so Saint Mary's will face Trinity's U20s on Saturday.

"Hopefully our U20s will be competitive with Saint Mary's, but after the week they have had, I am sure they will be wary," said Smeeth. "Whatever happens, we will have great day in the old spirit and traditions of Rugby, with the Six Nations on the TV screens in the club house. It will be good to catch up with my old mate Tim [O'Brien] and his wife Christine, this must be their 5th or 6th tour to Ireland in past 20 years. They are good people."