St. Mary’s got a late penalty kick from Augie Heath to pip Cal 20-18 Sunday in a much-anticipated friendly between the two longtime rivals.
This was the first time since 1980 that these two teams were playing a game that didn’t have any bearing on league standings or the playoffs. But that didn’t change the intensity of the match.
From the beginning, St. Mary’s were clearly fired up and fans knew this would be a tight contest.
Cal got on the board first with a try from Jack Anderson. But at 14 minutes St. Mary’s prop Matt Crawford thundered over to tie the game. Anderson slotted a penalty right after the restart to make it 8-5, and that’s how the score stood for most of the first half.
St. Mary’s showcased an very strong effort in the scrum, and shoved Cal back on more than one occasion. But they also struggled in their kicking game, their box kicks, especially, did little to relieve St. Mary’s pressure.
While the Gaels are known for turning defense into offense, it was Cal that did so at the end of the first half. Lock Brendan Daly, who had an excellent game, intercepted a St. Mary’s pass and was in under the posts. Anderson slotted the conversion and Cal led 15-5.
That score looked like it might be a momentum shift. But St. Mary’s upped their game in the second half. They changed their kicking to kick more into space, and exerted pressure on Cal’s young back three. Meanwhile the forwards, led by the inspiration captain and hooker Andrew Cook, kept up the intensity.
St. Mary’s scored first in that half when wing Cooper Maloney touched down. Moments later the Gaels scored again, this time through Augie Heath, for five of his ten points on the day, giving the home side the lead 17-15.
Cal pressed on and Anderson kicked a penalty to give Cal the lead again 17-18. But a Cal player was yellow-carded late in the game, and with a man down, the Bears had some more work to do.
Along with dealing with some tough scrums, Cal misfired in the lineout on three key attacking opportunities. That opened the door for St. Mary’s, and Augie Heath’s penalty put them up to stay 20-18.
Tim Maupin was superb for the Gaels in the backs, while Cook led from the front and continued to get St. Mary’s go-forward.
At fullback, Kingsley McGowan was an attacking force but, more important, was almost perfect with his tackling, keeping a dangerous Cal attack under control.
Meanwhile Heath was the one who kicked the clutch goal.
"I was nervous having struck the first two pretty well, but that last one just came off my foot the right way," Heath told Cal Rugby. "Everybody in college rugby knows that Cal is the team, so this was a good win for our team."
Cal ends their season 16-2, having also lost to Cal Poly. St. Mary’s is 13-4, having lost to BYU, UBC, and two teams on tour in the UK.
Both teams were suffering from injuries, and both a relatively young. Cal's squad is as underclassmen-heavy as any in recent memory, and will graduate only two regular starters.
"A lot of our guys are coming back next year and I'm looking forward to it already," said captain Seamus Kelly. "Saint Mary's is one of the best teams in the country. It makes for a great rivalry and that's the beauty of it."
St. Mary’s 20
Tries: Crawford, Maloney, Heath
Tries: Anderson, Daly
Pens: Anderson 2