Big Exam For New Year: Central Washington Visits UC Davis, Saint Mary's

The New Year kicks off with a pair of earth-shaking college games in California, as D1A national championship contender Central Washington takes on two imposing opponents.

CWU, which is a varsity program in Ellensburg, WA, and is now playing as a D1A independent, will take on UC Davis — 2015 and 2016 D1AA national champion — on Friday night under the lights at the Aggies’ football stadium in Davis, CA. Then, on Saturday, the Wildcats go one better and face defending the D1A champion Saint Mary’s Gaels in Moraga, CA.

Both of these matchups should provide an early look at where these teams fall in the national pecking order.

After winning two D1AA titles in a row, UC Davis lost the 2017 final to Notre Dame College. That run, however, was good enough for the Aggies to move up to D1A. There have been all sorts of arguments about whether D1AA teams can handle the demands of a D1A schedule, and while NDC going 4-2 in the Rugby East demonstrated that the move up can be made, the Aggies have something to prove, too.


“I think there are D1AA teams that are better than some D1A teams,” said new UC Davis Andy Malpass, who coached UC Davis some years ago, as well. “That said, we know it will be a big step up. Central Washington’s a really, really good program. They’ve got some very talented players and Todd [Thornley] is a really good coach. This is the type of team we need to play. I want my guys playing Central Washington, BYU, Saint Mary's. That’s the only way we’re going to get better.”

The Aggies played Sacramento State and Chico State in warmup games just before the fall semester finals week. UC Davis won those games comfortably, but Malpass hasn’t seen his players since, as exams and the winter break mean they will show up on campus and pitch up a couple of days later.

Central Washington is in somewhat the same situation. 

“We will just have two indoor sessions before hitting the road on Thursday,” said Thornley, who is in his second year as Wildcats head coach. “While they have been away they have been given high conditioning standards that need to be met and also will be assessed on our gameplay understanding. 

"Despite the less-than-ideal preparation, we are very excited by the challenge of playing two quality opponents this weekend. It’s a great way to kick off our season.” 


Meanwhile, Saint Mary’s has had several warmup games in the fall and went back to campus early for a run-out against the Diablo men’s club, a game the Gaels, predictably, won.

“I think it was really beneficial for us to get some game time even though we came out of break a little early,” Saint Mary's flanker/lock Alec Barton said. “We are really excited about this Central Washington game. We circled it on our calendar a while ago. We’ve faced them in sevens, but we’re feeling that competitiveness and excitement because we get to play them in 15s.”

Saint Mary's Defense Shuts Down Navy In Annapolis

Ronan Murphy: The Big Body On Saint Mary's

Saint Mary's put in an impressive defensive effort to defeat the US Naval Academy 20-7 Saturday in Annapolis.

Samurai PRP Player of The Week: Stephen Karas, Glendale Merlins

The Samurai PRP Player of The Week goes to Glendale Merlins prop Stephen Karas in a classic PRP shootout victory over Santa Monica.

BYU Edges CWU In Dramatic Thursday Night Clash

In a meeting of two highly-ranked D1A teams, the independent Central Washington Wildcats were edged out by the Rocky Mountain Conference champion BYU Cougars 24-17 Thursday night in Provo.

2019 Sorensen Award Nominees Named

The nominees for the MA Sorensen Award for the top women's college player in the country have been released.

Socino: Calcutta Cup Memories

The Six Nations finale surpassed everybody’s wildest dreams in terms of entertainment.

Two Top-Five Clashes Highlight D1A Weekend

New USA Callup Duncan Van Schalkwyk

Make sure you visit FloRugby at 1PM Central Time on March 31 to see a panel of four unveil the D1A Rugby playoff bracket, and there are plenty of seeding questions to be answered in the coming weeks.

Scholz Award Nominees Released

The nominees for the Rudy Scholz Award have been released.

Five Major Nations In Women's Super Series In San Diego

SAN DIEGO, CA. - USA Rugby will host the Women’s Rugby Super Series from June 28 to July 14, bringing together the world’s top five teams for a round-robin tournament spanning five competition dates in the greater San Diego area.

A New-Look D1 Elite Semis This Weekend

Lindenwood's Joyce Taufa Gets Eagle Nod

This weekend the top four women's D1 college teams playing 15s this spring face off in the D1 Elite semifinals: Why so early? Why just four of them? Why all alone? We'll tell you.

So Long Sunwolves

Japan's ground-breaking Sunwolves team are set to be axed from Super Rugby, a report said on Wednesday, as the governing body prepared to make an announcement about the competition's future.