St. Mary’s has clinched 1st place in the D1-A Pacific Conference with a game left, as they hold the tiebreaker over every team that could conceivably tie them in the standings, and they did so in impressive fashion, beating a very solid Central Washington University squad 37-0.
The Gaels are now 3-0 in the abbreviated Pacific season and now will take a tour of Ireland and Wales before returning for a much-anticipated friendly with Cal. But more currently, the Gaels were outstanding in taking the Wildcats apart, scoring in the opening minute when Garrett Brewer – playing in his first match since incurring a hamstring injury in November, sliced through the weakside defense and went the distance to score.
Shocked, Central tried to regroup but had a devil of a time doing so when they could not win much clean scrum ball. The St. Mary’s scrum, strong all year long, hit another gear this weekend. The pack played without tough-as-nails prop Jordan Bouey who played the entire BYU game after dislocating his shoulder. But Michael O’Neill stepped in and the pack didn’t miss a beat.
Brewer added to his try with the conversion and then a penalty goal. Central worked hard to break through but struggled.
“We had some opportunities but we couldn’t make them pay off,” said Head Coach Bob Ford. “St. Mary’s are a very good team and they defended really well. They get the ball out quick, and while we struggled in the scrums, and I think also our issue was we haven’t had a lot of challenging games.”
Midway through the first half Central got a penalty and All American 7s wing Tim Stanfill tapped quickly and sped off downfield. Only one player was anywhere near him – prop Matt Crawford. Amazingly, after a 70-meter chase, the St. Mary’s front-rower caught Stanfill and forced him to kick ahead - captain and hooker Andrew Cook winning the chase to touch the ball down in-goal. That play spelled trouble for Central, and certainly dashed hopes of a comeback.
“That play just shows the type of heart these guys have been playing with,” said St. Mary’s Head Coach Tim O’Brien.”
Brewer added another try to make it 15-0 at halftime. He was subbed out after scoring all of his team’s points in the first 40 minutes.
After that, St. Mary’s rolled. Despite being down two men due to yellow cards – Cooper Maloney for tackling a player in the air, and Jamie Borup for grabbing the scrumhalf during a ruck - the Gaels put hooker Andrew Cook at No. 8 and scored anyway. Scrumhalf Jimmy Wallace, playing in place of the academically ineligible Chad Clark, was outstanding and controlled the game superbly, linking with flyhalf Auggie Heath, in for his injured brother, Max.
Maloney scored early in the second half and then tries from Borup, Hulu Moungaloa, and captain Andrew Cook (with one Heath conversion) capped the scoring.
Borup’s try may have been the pick of them. A knock-on gave CWU a scrum on their own five-meter. The St. Mary’s pack simply shunted CWU off the ball and Borup just had to touch the ball down.
The pick of the players may well be Cook. The St. Mary’s hooker and leader has been brilliant all season, playing with a fire in his belly and air in his lungs. He was the one who kept the team on track when they were down two men.
“There’s a vibe among these guys, and Andrew leads them,” said O’Brien. “They enjoy each other’s company. They don’t worry about the injuries or other challenges. There’s a lot of symmetry in the team, and that can take you a long way.”
Central Washington, 1-1, returns home with some work to do.
“We’ll go back and look at what we could have done,” said Ford. “I think we competed well in some aspects, but we’ll be back hard at work trying to move forward from this.”
St. Mary’s 37
Tries: Brewer 2, Borup, Maloney, Moungaloa, Cook
Convs: Brewer, Heath
Central Washington 0