With two minutes remaining in the match, Nicklas Boyer slid over the line for a try, but with a 24-point deficit, the Bears had run out of time. In the final game of the regular season, Cal rugby (16-2) fell to Saint Mary’s (14-1), leaving the scoreline at 55-31.
The Bears had much of the possession throughout the game, but the Gaels’ defense stayed firm. Phase after phase of play was in Cal’s favor, but Saint Mary’s was patient and capitalized on breaks in play in devastatingly quick fashion.
“They were lethal,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “They had a lot of long-range tries.”
Despite Cal’s maintenance of the ball for long periods of the game, it was on the backfoot for much of it and was ultimately beaten by a stronger side.
“We were outplayed by a better team,” Clark said.
Saint Mary’s was steadfast in defense and critical in attack — taking its chances when they came and ensuring that the Bears were unable to convert possession into points.
That being said, there were areas of the game in which Cal could have improved on to reduce the deficit. The Bears missed important tackles on defense and, in attack, failed to score at times when the gaps were there.
“We were under pressure in attack,” said captain Seamus Kelly. “Our tackling was pretty shocking”.
Cal trailed Saint Mary’s throughout the 80 minutes, but the Bears were always within reach of leveling the score. The Gaels ensured their victory though, as they responded to each Cal try with scores of their own to keep the Bears’ efforts at bay.
This result is an important turning point in Cal’s season so far; the loss could galvanize the team to work harder and play better in its upcoming postseason games.
“You can’t forget a performance like this,” Kelly said. “It has to change the way we train and play.”
In order to progress further, the team will have to reassess and refocus on the principal aspects of its game. The main aspects the Bears need to address are the basics, structural analysis and their tackle rates.
The players are putting in every effort to ensure that they will come out on top this postseason despite these two defeats. The raw talent that has been prevalent in so many previous Cal rugby teams may not be as evident this season, with so many new players coming up the ranks, but this has not stopped the Bears from striving to be the best.
“We have two All-American players, and then we have a bunch of players trying very hard,” Clark said.
To win their upcoming games and ultimately win the Varsity Cup National Championships, the Bears are going to have to rely on more than just flair and skill. Effort and hard work are the key to Cal success, and it will be a difficult path to victory.
“We don’t have that level of talent,” Clark said. “We have to work very hard to get where we want.”
Daniella Mogilner covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected].