Humboldt State men’s rugby played an exhibition match against one of the top programs in the nation on Saturday, in preparation of a key upcoming league game.
The Jacks traveled to Saint Mary’s and lost 57-5 to the Gaels freshmen and sophomore team. The Gaels varsity squad is ranked No. 3 in the nation among Division-I schools.
“We were playing some of the top freshmen and sophomore rugby players in the country, and we wanted to see how the kids would respond,” HSU assistant coach Vince Celotto said.
The Jacks started mostly reserves, erring on the side of caution with influential forwards Latufeao Kolopeaua and Joseph Johnson, each of whom will be needed for the crucial March 2 matchup at home to Sonoma State.
The entire starting back line was made up of younger reserves for the first half.
“After the game against CSU Monterey (on Feb. 9), the coaching staff made a decision that we needed to get a look at some promising players we have been unable to play,” Celotto said. “We needed to see what this team has on a whole.”
At halftime the home team led 50-0.
The Jacks’ starting backs took over after the interval, while the forwards moved back to more natural positions, and the second half was far more competitive with a 7-5 score in favor of the home team.
Benjamin Flores and Anthony Rosales were both credited with big performances for HSU.
“It was literally Rosales’ first match and we liked what we saw,” Celotto added.
The Jacks (2-0) will play the Seawolves in 10 days.
“That is the match that can propel us into the playoff hunt to represent Northern California,” said Celotto, who added the team’s goal this year is a National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) national championship.
The Jacks will be hoping for a big turnout of support for the key game, which will take place at College Creek Field at 1 p.m.
“We will need support,” Celotto said. “This is the match that will decide if we stay on top in our league.”