It’s not normal for a team’s weakest performance of the season to result in an 83-7 win. But Cal rugby is not a normal team.
“This was definitely our worst performance of the year, but the score doesn’t reflect it,” freshman flanker Michael Bush said. “We’ve definitely got a lot to work on.”
Despite a slow start, the Cal rugby team managed to take out Santa Clara in a lopsided fashion on Saturday afternoon at Bellomy Field in Santa Clara, Calif.
The Bears’ Friday night matchup against Cal Maritime was canceled due to extreme weather conditions, and the side that would’ve played against the Keelhaulers was shifted back to play against the Broncos — to their slight disappointment.
“We were excited to play Cal Maritime knowing that they’re a little closer to a rival, and it’s a big game,” Bush said. “Everyone came out pretty lackadaisical in this game.”
Cal got on the board early with two tries from freshman center Eakalafi Okusi, giving the Bears a 14-0 lead at the 10-minute mark.
Santa Clara then started to physically take over the game, controlling the run of play and putting pressure on Cal’s backs.
“We had to show them that we could play defense,” Okusi said. “They had a bigger team and bigger guys.”
When the Bears had the ball, they were plagued by sloppy passing and catching and weren’t able to establish any sort of rhythm in the first half. Cal would grind out two more unconverted tries and take a 24-0 lead into halftime.
“We had a hard time tackling them sometimes,” coach Jack Clark said. “There were some times when Santa Clara had the run of play just because they were big strong boys. It wasn’t necessarily a step forward for us.”
The Bears got things rolling a little more in the second half, as scrumhalf Nicklas Boyer opened things up with two quick tries and conversions to complete a hat trick.
Cal continued to build off that momentum, playing more disciplined rugby and controlling the tempo of the game for the entire second half. Eight different Bears managed to tally tries by the end of the match.
But it still wasn’t what Clark wanted to see.
“I don’t think we played as well as we can play,” Clark said. “Our rugby wasn’t all that good. We kind of just out-athleted them, as opposed to out-rugbying them.”
For Cal, it’ll be back to basics this week, as the team will go back to tuning up its rugby fundamentals in preparing for its matchup with Stanford on Saturday.
“We’ve got to work on our basic catch and pass skills and get back to our fundamentals,” Bush said. “We kind of went astray from our systems, and we’ve got to get back to the way that Cal plays rugby.”