There is something that both St. Mary’s College of California and Central Washington University of Ellensburg, Wash. wanted out of their most recent games; something neither team got.
Tough games have been hard to come by for both teams as they enter the business end of the season.
Central is now 5-0 against DI-A opponents in their independent season, with their latest effort an 83-15 pasting of Colorado, they have waded through their opposition with consistent domination.
“The players are excited for good opposition,” said CWU Coach Tony Pacheco. “We haven’t had a ton of tough games and we do want that kind of competition.”
St. Mary’s has lost only one game, that against top men’s club SFGG. In their other 13 games before going on tour to Italy, only Cal Poly had held them to less than 45 points. The Gaels scored 42 against the Mustangs.
In Italy, the hoped-for tough games didn’t quite materialize. Despite a fun and well-run tour by Irish Rugby Tours, the rain didn’t cooperate. Constant rain in the north of Italy meant many teams were making up postponed matches when St. Mary’s was in-country. As a result, opposition kept changing. They did get to play some matches, mostly in heavy downpours, and they ended up being runaway St. Mary’s victories.
“We had fun, but did we come out of it more ready to play Central Washington and Cal? I don’t think so,” said St. Mary’s Coach Tim O’Brien. “But we’re relatively healthy, and we got some games in, so no complaints. But we need this game.”
The Gaels do have some injuries, with flankers Justin Henry and Lloyd Evans out. Faced with a surfeit of backs and not enough forwards, O’Brien has put B-side flyhalf Kyle Peterson and All American 7s player Bubba Jones, also a flyhalf, in as loose forwards, and they have been outstanding.
The backs still are strong, with Tim Maupin in fine form.
“We can score a lot of points,” said O’Brien. “But sometimes the spigot just shuts off. We’ve seen that in a bunch of games. So we need to get to the point where we don’t do that.”
For the home team, the Wildcats, they did see two key players, Aladdin Schirmer and Patrick Blair, leave the game early against Colorado. They are questionable. Meanwhile captain Ryan Snider, who has come back from ACL injuries to play some excellent rugby, will miss at least half the game because of an important exam. But CWU has plenty of firepower, with Tanner Barnes and Max Narewski central in their backline.
“The guys know how good St. Mary’s is,” said Pacheco, whose team has clinched a play-in date with Cal Poly for a place in the DI-A playoffs, a situation that won’t change with this game. “It’s been an interesting season so far, and I know this game may not mean a lot in some ways, but it’s a chance for us to play some really good rugby against tough competition. We want to win, but we also just want to get better.”
The game will be webcast live at noon Pacific Time at www.youtube.com/usarugbytv