Cal opens season with lopsided wins but inconsistent play

The Cal rugby team opened its season this weekend by winning the Dennis Storer Classic Pac-12 Tournament at UCLA for the seventh straight year, allowing just six points while posting 269 over four matches.

“Passing grade,” coach Jack Clark said. “Nothing more, though.”

Despite the eye-popping scores, the Bears were a little inconsistent on the field, mixing stretches of dominating rugby with momentary lapses in play. In a 50-3 win over Oregon State on Saturday, the Bears saw their play turn a little sloppy in the second half, resulting in their lowest scoring output of the weekend.

“Our communication on defense was quite poor,” scrumhalf Paul Bosco said. “There wasn’t enough talking out there, and that was evident when you could see us scrambling.”

Part of the Bears’ somewhat erratic play could be explained in their youth. Eight freshmen started in Cal’s 66-0 win over USC on Saturday in Los Angeles, and 18 of 31 players to see action that day were underclassman.

Clark utilized the early season tournament to give experience to as many of his athletes as possible. All 50 players that made the trip down south saw playing time this weekend.

“What’s good about a tournament like this is that it lets us play a lot of minutes and spread those minutes around,” Clark said. “They need experience playing the game. A lot of young guys are going to get playing time, and that’s exactly what they need.”

However, Cal put its strongest and most experienced side on the field in the tournament final against UCLA, and in turn put up its best performance of the weekend.

Senior Danny Barrett set the tone early with a 70-meter run for a try, and senior Alex Aronson made a tough conversion from the left corner to make the score 10-0. The Bears would continue to dominate the match, preventing the Bruins from getting into any kind of rhythm en route to a 58-0 win.

They have the ability to play pretty good rugby, and we should be pleased that we didn’t allow them to do that today,” Clark said. “They had more rugby in them, but the pressure we were putting on them made it hard for them.”

UCLA was also not at full strength, having lost a couple of key players to injury earlier in the tournament. And while the Bruins proved to be the toughest opponent that Cal faced, the Bears know that tougher squads lurk on the near horizon.

But Cal is still satisfied with their opening weekend, and feel like they’re right where they need to be at this point in the season.

“We took a step in the right direction this weekend,” Aronson said. “Some of the younger guys put in some good minutes and showed some promise. It was a good starting block, and we just need to build from there.”