STANFORD, Calif. — In the closing moments before halftime, Cal rugger Brad Harrington took a pass and sprinted for the try zone, dragging multiple Stanford defenders along the way. One eventually got a hold of the junior’s shorts, pulling them down and tripping him up — eliciting laughs and jeers from the fans in attendance at Steuber Family Rugby Field.
Completely unfazed, Hamilton found a wide-open Danny Barrett to his left, who grabbed a pass and waltzed in for a try, pushing the score to 62-0 at the half.
And by the end of the match, the Cardinal were the ones caught with their pants down — allowing their rival to score more points than their two-digit scoreboard could display, while failing to score any of their own.
Cal (6-0) retained the Scrum Axe for the 16th straight year in taking out Stanford, 109-0, on Saturday afternoon.
“We ran pretty well today,” coach Jack Clark said. “It got a little bit one sided, and it got a little bit easier to play with velocity.”
The Bears physically dominated the match, having little trouble moving the ball and finding the try zone. For the match, the Cal tallied 17 tries from eight different Bears — including four from Barrett and a hat trick from junior Seamus Kelly.
But the team must have been confused by the scoreboard’s final display of 09-00 instead of 109-00, as the squad felt that it should have tallied a few more.
“We started out well, and there was a bit in the middle of the game when we fell off,” Barrett said. “We just need to play more. We’re still learning how to play with each other.”
But Cal did manage to stay disciplined to its offensive systems, methodically picking apart Stanford’s defense while moving the ball at will.
Yet despite its domination, Cal was plagued by a plethora of dropped balls, which became increasingly numerous as the game wore on. Clark withheld most of his reserves in preparation for an evening match with Sacramento State, resulting in the majority of his top side playing a full 80 minutes for the first time this season — and the players’ resulting fatigue was visible.
“We’re not ready to play really hard rugby yet,” Clark said. “Our lack of fitness showed today.”
Regardless, the Bears managed to shut out Stanford for the third straight year, turning one of the most lopsided final score in the series history. The Cardinal did have a few opportunities to get on the board, none better than a 40 meter penalty kick from flyhalf Jason Liljenquist that bounced off the cross bar. But whenever Stanford would start to put pressure on Cal’s back line, the Bears would find an answer, using their physicality to frustrate the Cardinal.
Stanford struggled with Cal’s size and speed all match long, and the physical disparity between the two teams proved too much to overcome. More often than not, the Stanford scrums were pushed backwards, and the Cardinal usually required multiple defenders to bring down the Bears.
While Cal is happy with the result, the team knows that tougher teams are on the near horizon, a task that the Bears still don’t quite feel up to.
“It’s still early in the season, but we just need to execute better and play cleaner,” junior Seamus Kelly said. “Everything needs to be more precise.”
“We have a good platform to build from.”