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Rebound rejected: Cal drops 2nd straight game in 34-38 loss to Saint Mary’s

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MARCH 28, 2023

On Saturday, Cal rugby dropped its second straight game — this time to Bay Area rival Saint Mary’s. The Gaels have had the Bears’ number recently, totaling two wins in the past three matchups, including a postseason win in 2022. Despite Saturday’s game being the first chance for Cal to exact revenge on its rivals in front of a home crowd, the visitors from Moraga won the day.

Like previous matchups in 2022 and much like Cal’s epic match against Navy just two weeks prior, this game was competitive to the very end. The Gaels got out to a 12-0 lead on the Bears in the early going before a strong offensive effort, capped by a try from Alex Aguero, had the two teams locked up at 19 just seconds before halftime. 

Then, the game reached a turning point. Receiving a restart kickoff after the tying Schumacher conversion, Saint Mary’s pulled together an astonishing run. Bursting through the blue and gold defense, the Gaels pulled ahead with 7 points to end the half, 26-19. 

The Bears had found themselves in a dogfight with the Gaels long before this point, but a momentum shift like this on their home turf energized the visiting fans and an already-electric Gael sideline. 

The second half started off well for the blue and gold. Through the first 20 minutes of the second half, the Bears were able to score 15 unanswered points and carried a 34-16 lead with 17 minutes to go. Cal’s defense, which has a track record of impressive second-half performances, was certainly living up to its reputation during that stretch.

But then, much like the way the Gaels burst into the lead to end the first half, Saint Mary’s once again came alive. In the 63rd and 66th minutes, the visiting Gaels were able to put up two tries and 13 points to retake the lead, 39-34. 

There remained a lot of time for the Bears to climb out of its 5-point deficit, but this tally wouldn’t change. For the next 15 minutes, Cal tried desperately to gain possession and position to score a tying try. But the Gaels’ defense stepped up. The Bears were unable to convert any points in the final stages of the game, spelling victory for the visitors. 

The final sequence of the game was not without its miscues from the Bears, though. These mistakes came to a head in the Bears’ final effort in the closing minutes of the game. At midfield, the Bears were moving the ball well until a fumbled pass near the visitors’ sideline was recovered by Saint Mary’s. The roaring of the Saint Mary’s sideline and stands full of visiting fans drowned out the sound of the final horn.

Saturday’s loss marks the second loss for the Bears all season. Now 10-2, Cal has one game remaining in its regular season schedule. Certainly, these last two weeks have been rough for Cal rugby faithfuls, but there is no reason to panic. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the Bears have had the ball with the chance to win in back-to-back games against the nation’s top teams in Navy and Saint Mary’s. If the blue and gold can begin to hit their stride by the beginning of the postseason, there is no telling where their ceiling is. 

The Bears conclude their regular season schedule with a trip to Utah to face BYU on March 31. This road trip will prove to be another challenge for Cal and an opportunity to transition into the postseason with a win.

Contact Ryan Sheehan at 


MARCH 28, 2023