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Cal Poly Rugby has gone down fighting in their D1A Semi Final match against St Mary’s College in Moraga last Saturday. It was a tight contest between the Mustangs & Gaels in the first forty and that showed in the 17-10 score line at the break, but St Mary’s dangerous attack was too much for the Poly defense in the second half and home side secured a 58-24 win.
A tremendous crowd turned out in the east bay to see these Californian rivals stake their claim for a championship final spot two weeks later and they were not disappointed.
The home side got off to a solid start with two early tries but the Mustangs fought back with continued pressure inside the Gaels red zone, but it was Poly’s failure to capitalize on that field position with points that would come back to hurt them later in the match. Mustang flanker Kurt Drinkwater was tackled just meters out from the try line after some swift ball movement from flyhalf Taylor Honnette and inside center Andy Early. Not long after that winger Cody Perez lost the ball in the tackle as he dove over the try line.
Poly finally went in for a five pointer when replacement winger Kelii Dominguez scored just before the halftime break. Dominguez try came from a backline move off a scrum within Cal Poly’s own half. Ball movement across the field opened up a whole for flyhalf Taylor Honnette who ran 70 yards before offloading in the tackle to Dominguez who crashed over the line. The Mikey Mitchell conversion took the score to 17-10.
Unfortunately for the visitors the second half started quite the same as the first with early tries to the Gaels. A combination of missed tackles around the ruck and some very good open field running secured St Mary’s a comfortable lead moving into the final quarter of the match.
Even with the end in sight and the Gael’s a long way off, the Mustangs didn’t go down without a fight. After sustained pressure and ball control into St Mary’s half, co-captain and 5th year Cal Poly rugger Ben Crosby snuck his way past the Gaels ruck defense with a pick and go, to run 20 meters untouched for a try under the posts.
Cal Poly found their way over the try line once more, this time with a little more ball movement than Crosby’s try. A Max Tacket turnover gave the Mustangs possession 40 meters out from the Gael’s line, and through quick hands by replace flyhalf Scott Heath and second rower Bobby McNeal, fullback Mikey Mitchell caught the ball on the fly. Mitchell with plenty of work still to do weaved his way through four St Mary’s defenders to get over for the line. Final score 58-24.
Although it was not the result the Mustangs were after, the team and the club is tremendously proud of their achievement into the Final Four this season, a result the club has not achieved since 2004. The club will take a couple of weeks of training before returning to the practice field to begin preparations for the 2013 fall season.
The Cal Poly Rugby Final Four T-Shirts are still available through the J.Carroll online store. Remember 25% of sales goes back to the Rugby Club so make sure you get your commemorative T-Shirt or Tank. Click Here
Familiar foes the Cal Poly Mustangs and the St Mary’s Gaels will once again go into battle against one another this Saturday for a birth in the D1A National Championship Final that will be played in Greensboro North Carolina on May 18th.
This is Cal Poly’s first semi final appearance in the top division of collegiate rugby in the USA since 2004. That season the Mustangs beat Air Force in their final four match but went down to the Cal Bears in the final.
Almost a decade later another tough breed of Cal Poly ruggers will put on the green & gold jersey in the hopes of going one game further than their 2004 counterparts.
The task ahead of them this Saturday afternoon in Moraga will certainly not be an easy one. St Mary’s, ranked 5th in the nation coming into the playoffs, claimed a 41-31 victory over Poly in their regular season match in San Luis Obispo on March 9th.
That day the Mustangs gave St Mary’s “everything we could handle” said Gaels Head Coach Tim O’Brian, but due to a few lapses in defensive focus from the home side, St Mary’s came back to secure a 10 point win.
Cal Poly Co-Captain Ben Crosby knows his team has grown since that match and can maintain pressure on the Gaels attack for duration of semi final. “After that match we were very proud of our hard fought performance against such a top side, but at the same time were disappointed we allowed them to score some easy tries.” Crosby said.
“Our defensive focus and pressure has only gotten better since then, and we’ll certainly have a big emphasis on that this weekend.”
Cal Poly booked their seat in the final four last Saturday in Fort Collins Colorado when they beat Colorado State 40-19.
The visitors were tipped as the match favorites, but it was all the home side in the opening quarter of the match as the Rams took it to the Mustangs at every encounter. After the very healthy home crowd was treated to an opening Rams five pointer, the Poly ruggers finally got into gear with tries to senior Bobby McNeal & rookie Kyle Castaneda.
Although the score got away from Colorado State, the Rams didn’t let up at any point in the match. From the 12 all score line at half time, Cal Poly winger Jake Gersh touched down for a double, and McNeal & Castaneda both found their way to the line for a second try of their own.
Cal Poly is calling on every Mustang Alum, Rugby or not, to get to Moraga this Saturday at 2pm for a semi final match not to be forgotten.
Supporting the club in SLO is Cal Poly’s official licensee J.Carroll who have come up with a special commemorative Cal Poly Rugby Final Four T-shirt & Tank Top for fans to buy online for only $9.99. Also 25% of these merchandise sales will go directly back to the Cal Poly Rugby Club. Click here to get your T-Shirt or Tank and support Cal Poly on their way to a National Championship Final.
WRITTEN BY ALEX GOFF – RUGBYMAG.COM
Cal Poly is not one of those college teams that is named among the elite, although they have been at the top on occasion, but this weekend the Mustangs vaulted themselves into that conversation with a 40-19 defeat of Colorado State in the DI-A quarterfinals.
Cal Poly Head Coach David Burnett is pleased with his team’s performance, and says he believes the squad deserves to be where it is. Having finished 2nd in the DI-A California conference, Cal Poly was expecting to host Central Washington in a play-in game.
CWU opted out of that match, in part because they felt treated harshly by the DI-A division. And while Cal Poly recently lost to Central in a friendly in Ellensburg, Wash., Burnett said the game would have gone differently in San Luis Obispo.
“We made a couple of mistakes in that game against Central, and we felt confident we would be able to fix those and, playing at home, come away with a better result,” said Burnett. “We’re disappointed we didn’t get the opportunity, if only because we’d like to have more tough games. We’re all working hard to get a stronger competition going, but what we need is a good ten weeks of tough games.
They got that this weekend, as Colorado State scored early and put a little worry in the minds of the Mustangs. But Cal Poly replied.
Mikey Mitchell was a big part of it. A former soccer player who, as a junior, is in his first year of rugby, Mitchell is, said Burnett, the “most naturally gifted kicker I have seen in rugby since I came to America.”
Mitchell can punt and kick for goal with equal alacrity from either foot, and he was accurate, with distance, on the weekend.
Meanwhile prop Eric Parsons has emerged as a leader in the scrum and Max Tacket remains their go-to finisher out wide. It’s a good team, and one that is painfully aware that they lost only 42-31 to St. Mary’s in league play in March. The two meet again this weekend in the semifinals.
“We have played a lot of close games with them,” said Burnett. “Our game this year was close and we’ve been close in 7s, too. The last game we let in a couple of soft tries. We know we can do better.”
Cal Poly Rugby have qualified for the 2013 USA Rugby D1A Playoffs. On April 27th Cal Poly will travel to Fort Collins Colorado to take on Colorado State in the National Championship Quarter Final. The club is calling on the entire Cal Poly Rugby community to assist them in raising funds to help cover the players out of pocket travel expenses for the trip. All donations are tax deductible and can be made at www.mustangrugby.org Go Mustangs!
Cal Poly Rugby have finished the regular season with a tight 21- 10 loss to Central Washington University in a non competition match in Ellensburg WA on Saturday.
The sun was shinning but with snow on the mountains surrounding Ellensburg the wind blowing strongly down the field was a very fresh 48 degrees.
This match between these strong Rugby university only became on non competition match about 10 days prior to kick off when Central Washington jumped ship from the D1A competition to the breakaway eight team competition the Varsity Cup. The Varsity Cup is a playoff type competition taking place over three weeks between well know universities such as Cal, BYU and Dartmouth.
Although there were no competition points to gain or loose from the match, Cal Poly were happy to travel to Washington for what was always going to be very physical encounter.
The Mustangs put together some solid passages of play in the first half and defended their red zone very well, but it was the visitors failure you to utilize the strong wind at their backs that subsequently kept the scoreboard attendant without a thing to do going into the half time break.
The second half started well for Cal Poly with line breaks up the middle of the field from second rower Bobby McNeal and scrumhalf Thomas Leacox, but poor ball security in the phases to follow cost the team the much needed opening points of the match.
Central Washington were the first to secure points on the board about 15 minutes into the second half, when their 8 man made a 40 yard break off the back of the scrum. That field position set up the Wildcats forwards who manage to pick and go their way over the line for the try and an easy conversion from in front of the posts. Another Central Washington try shortly after gave the home team an almost comfortable 14-0 lead.
It was better late than never for Cal Poly as they stage a fight back in the last quarter of the match. The first of two tries came to winger Jake Gersh who chased a well position box kick from scrumhalf Thomas Leacox that landed perfectly inside the Central Washington try zone.
The second Mustang try came only minutes later when outside center Max Tacket put up a soring kick into the wind. The swirling ball proved too difficult for the Wildcats fullback to catch and the subsequent bounce popped straight into the arms of the chasing Tacket who went through to score untouched. Central Washington 14 – Cal Poly 10.
With less than five minutes to go it was Central Washington that took the upper hand and finished with a try that would seal the match for the home team.
Cal Poly now moves into the D1A post season with a quarterfinal match against the winner of the West Conference, Colorado State University in Fort Collins on April 27th. The Mustangs traveling squad is calling on the entire Cal Poly Rugby community to assist the team in raising funds to help cover the players out of pocket travel expenses for the trip to Fort Collins. All donations to the club are tax deductible and can be made online at www.mustangrugby.org
If Cal Poly is successful in Colorado, they will likely meet Californian rivals St Mary’s College in the D1A National Championship Semi Final in Moraga on May 4th.
Cal Poly Rugby have finished the regular season with a convincing 45-7 win over Santa Clara University last Saturday in northern California. That win leaves the Mustangs with a 6-1 record in the Division 1A competition. That record gives Poly second place with 31 league points, only 4 points behind Californian conference winners St Mary’s College. The Mustangs skillful and well executed attack this season ensured they finished every league match a bonus point for scoring four or more tries.
The final regular season match in Santa Clara started in similar fashion to that of the St Mary’s match the week before with scrumhalf Thomas Leacox darting through the defense to find his way to the try line for the first five pointer of the match.
Not long after Leacox’s try the Mustangs found themselves back up in the SCUTS half following some good counter attack from tight forwards Ben Crosby & Eric Parsons. From a lineout 35 meters out the Poly backline, comprising of new 10,12, 13 combination Scott Heath, Taylor Honnette and Andy Early, confused their opposing backline enough to get Honnette over the try line untouched. The successful conversion by fullback Mikey Mitchell gave the Mustangs a 14-0 lead.
Cal Poly continued to build pressure through the first half and restrict the Santa Clara attack to just a single try. Max Tacket scored the first of his three tries for the day after getting a nice offload from 8 man Kurt Drinkwater just a few meters from the try line. The last try of the first half came through Pat McCreesh who was at the back of a driving maul the Mustangs started from a SCUTS lineout.
Although the visiting side kept the scoreboard ticking in the second half with a try to Mikey Mitchell and two to Max Tacket, the Mustangs were less convincing. Numerous line breaks were made but Poly failed to give the last pass that would have put the score line over the half-century. Cal Poly finished the match 45 to 7 victors.
Cal Poly’s 2nd XV match was a try scoring bonanza in the first half. Both sides went over numerous times before the break and a 31 all score was the result. The back and forth scoring came to an end in the second half. The Mustangs tightened up their defense to keep the SCUTS scoreless and continued to convert pressure into points in attack. Nishant Mattu, Chris Dempster, Brent Mine, George Meert and Danny Price all got singles and Dave Arnold got a double. Also scoring two tries was prop Drew Meulman, whose two tries against Santa Clara put his try scoring total to seven in just four games. Final score Cal Poly 65 – Santa Clara 31.
Cal Poly Rugby now enjoys a few weeks off with final exams for the quarter and spring break. The Cal Poly 2nd & 3rd XVs take on UC Riverside in a friendly on April 6th at Cal Poly. The following weekend the 1st XV fly to the far north for a cross conference friendly against Central Washington University.
That friendly against Central Washington will be less friendly the next weekend when the two sides meet again. This time around on the 20th April at Cal Poly its for a spot in the National Championship quarter final against the winner of the West Conference, the University of Colorado. This is Cal Poly’s first appearance in the Division 1A post season so be sure to get out to the game to cheer on the Mustangs.