After an inspiring win against BYU last week to kick off its abbreviated 2021 season, the Cal men’s rugby team was outclassed in a loss Saturday to Bay Area rival Saint Mary’s in Moraga, California. Despite the loss, Cal fans were undoubtedly pleased to see both Walsh brothers, Charlie and Sam Walsh, score. Charlie’s was his first for the Bears in what was his first collegiate start.
From the get-go, the Bears were unable to keep pace with the Gaels, who scored 17 unanswered points in the first 34 minutes of play. However, Cal was fortunate to get seven points right before the half, as Hong Kong international and the Bears’ lone freshman starter Charlie Walsh scored his first ever collegiate try at the 40-minute mark.
In the second half, Cal was outscored by a slightly smaller margin, initially giving up eight points to Saint Mary’s, which went up 25-7. Fly-half junior Sam Walsh, Charlie’s older brother, then scored and converted a try at the 70-minute mark to cut the Gaels’ lead to 11. It simply wasn’t enough, however, as the home side went on to score another seven points to secure a 32-14 win.
In the final 20 minutes of both halves, the Bears were unable to capitalize on vital scoring opportunities. After emphasizing last week how difficult it is to meet performance objectives during this abnormal season, Head Coach Jack Clark again reiterated that the team is currently below his ideal standard for a championship level roster.
“The first thing to acknowledge is we were outplayed by Saint Mary’s on the day,” Clark said. “The second thing is we didn’t do our part to make the match more competitive on the scoreboard. We had our opportunities to ring the bell, but had too many critical errors at key moments. It’s all fixable, but in a three match truncated season there isn’t really room for a performance you want back.”
Saint Mary’s is always a difficult matchup and has consistently been one of the best teams in the nation over the past decade, winning three USA Rugby D1A National Championships and playing in five over that span. In that same period of time, the Bears have had a difficult time against the Gaels but lead the series with a record of 4-3.
Cal will look to bounce back this Saturday against Arizona in its final game of the three-game schedule.
Max Frincke covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].