|The St. Mary's College Gaels meet BYU in the 2012 Holy War.|
It's happening this Saturday at high noon ... an inevitably epic clash of two saintly schools: our LDS-Church-owned Brigham Young University with it's #1-ranked team faces the Roman-Catholic-Church-affiliated Saint Mary's College of California with it's #2-ranked team. As both programs look to claim the national spotlight of college rugby, it's interesting to compare both schools and note that both share similarities that one may not immediately expect ... which makes the potential potency of this match that much greater than other rugby matches to date.
Read on, skeptics ... read on.
Founded in 1863 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, St. Mary's College "holds that the mystery which inspires wonder about the nature of existence is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ giving a transcendent meaning to creation and human existence. Nourished by its Christian faith, the College understands the intellectual and spiritual journeys of the human person to be inextricably connected. It promotes the dialogue of faith and reason: it builds community among its members through the celebration of the church's sacramental life; it defends the goodness, dignity and freedom of each person, and fosters sensitivity to social and ethical concerns."
Brigham Young University, founded in 1875, maintains that "any education is inadequate which does not emphasize that [Jesus Christ] is the only name given under heaven whereby mankind can be saved. Certainly all relationships within the BYU community should reflect devout love of God and a loving, genuine concern for the welfare of our neighbor. Because the gospel encourages the pursuit of all truth, students at BYU should receive a broad university education. The arts, letters, and sciences provide the core of such an education, which will help students think clearly, communicate effectively, understand important ideas in their own cultural tradition as well as that of others, and establish clear standards of intellectual integrity."
Perhaps more compelling in relative similarity than these excerpts from both schools' mission statements are the unofficial but nearly identical mottoes each espouses: "Enter to learn, go forth to serve" (BYU), and "Enter to Learn, leave to Serve" (St. Mary's).
Uncanny enough for you??? Go figure ... but hey, I didn't make this stuff up; it's real, folks.
Now, I never thought I'd stop talking up Cal as the biggest threat to the establishment of the BYU Rugby Kingdom ... but, given that the Bears are done and gone from the top spot, perhaps it is only appropriate that a similarly-founded religious school rise up to present the clearest challenge to BYU ... and fittingly, they're still from California!
Thus it is, my friends. The new Holy War is here. Saints versus Saints. Mormons versus Catholics. Blue & White against Blue & Red. The Best pitted against the Best to determine who is truly the Best of the Best. :)
Think it sounds crazy and far-fetched? Think I'm just stirring the pot here and really straining for something substantive to share?? Think that each school's religious background has absolutely nothing to do with rugby???
Hey, that's fine ... just go and confront either one of these teams with that position, and let me know how it goes for you!!!
But if you're still dubious and demanding to see the stats, then here's some more surprise for you: they're nearly equal!
First off, BYU's roster lists 8 freshmen, 18 sophomores, 10 juniors, and 16 seniors for a total of 52 players. St. Mary's roster lists 13 freshmen, 19 sophomores, 15 juniors, and 19 seniors for a total of 66 players. And while the latter of these two rosters obviously counts with an additional depth of 14 players, nevertheless one could argue that what the former lacks in total numbers is made up for in experience. The vast majority of the St. Mary's squad is from California with only two players claiming international origins while BYU's less numerous squad boasts at least ten to fifteen players of direct or indirect international origins. Not much different than the Cal-BYU lineups of old ... and (sadly) we all know who came out on top in those meetings! Ahhh!!! ... Still trying to forget Cal ... so, let's move on.
To date, St. Mary's has put up 506 points to opponents' 112 points in nine matches. BYU has put up 476 points to opponents' 97 points in eight matches. That's an average of 56.2 points scored per game with 12.4 allowed by St. Mary's, and 59.5 points per game and 12.1 allowed by BYU. For every point scored by an opponent, BYU scores 4.9 points while St. Mary's scores 4.5. Pretty dang close!
Granted, BYU has overcome tough opponents in Rugby Super League men's teams, Old Puget Sound Beach and the Denver Barbarians ... But also take into account that St. Mary's hasn't had some cushy schedule this year either; rather, they have bested premier D-I men's team Olympic Club and the near-Cal-equal University of Utah. Their only loss has come to Cal's oldest rival, the University of British Columbia (whom Cal only beat by one point this year).
No question about it ... this is War, my beloved BYU Rugby fans ... and we might as well call it 'Holy', since I have no doubt that both sides are going to be praying their hearts out to see the final tally come out in their favor! Whichever side wins, they might be tempted to claim it as a manifestation of God's will ... but, of course, any true rugby fan knows that such cannot be the case, for He doesn't take sides when it comes to His favorite sport! ... We can still hope for some divine support though, right? :D
That said, no official prediction here, but I'll share some quick thoughts. On the one hand, the numbers make it look uber-close with a 5- or even 3-point margin of victory a real possibility. If St. Mary's truly puts up a formidable defensive and offensive effort, and if it's a rainy day, then I wouldn't be surprised to see this one being ground out in the forwards, with an above-average amount of the pick-and-go from the breakdown and more frequent attempts to maul down the field. Who gets the advantage? I say, "BYU", you say, "St. Mary's ... ceteris paribus, and it's the same as "puh-tay-toe", "puh-tah-toe". Unfortunately, there's no recent history of (any?) previous match-ups between the two schools from which to even postulate the outcome. So ... maybe your guess is just as good as mine.
Then again, my gut tells me that BYU might just pull away and rack up a number of tries over St. Mary's for a more convincing W. If given solid opportunities to receive clean ball-in-hand, surely our stacked back-line will eventually make mincemeat of any opposing defenders! And if BYU's numbers I through XV are firing on all cylinders, then forget about it, folks ... heck, if that's the case, I'll start saying a few Hail Mary's to petition for the Gaels' cause as well! :D Let's hope this latter scenario is the case ...
In conclusion, let me set aside any potential sacrilege or offense here expressed and sincerely state that I (and hopefully all my fellow BYU Rugby fanatics) have the utmost respect for St. Mary's College, especially as a fellow academic institution of faith based in Our Lord and Savior and as a fellow elite-level college rugby team striving for ultimate success. What more can I say? Good luck to the Gaels this Saturday.
Finally, to Our Boys, even our Ironclad Cougars, allow me to offer a selection of simple lines from the hymn:
"And now the foe advancing,
That valiant host assails,
And yet they never falter;
Their courage never fails.
Their Leader calls, “Be faithful!”
They pass the word along;
They see his signal flashing
And shout their joyful song:
Thru him that redeemed us!
Thru Jesus Christ, our Lord!
Victory, victory, victory,
Thru Jesus Christ, our Lord!"
Push onward to victory, My Brothers, united in faith and courage!
Let the BYU Rugby standard never wilt in defeat but ever wave proud and victorious to usher in The Kingdom!!
BYU Rugby Forever!!!