Cal takes care of business in two triumphs in desert

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t flawless, but the Cal rugby team managed to stay undefeated on its first out-of-state road trip of the season.

“We had patches when we played pretty well, but we made it hard on ourselves,” coach Jack Clark said. “We didn’t perform as well as we’d like to. At times we were underachieveing our potential a little bit.”

Despite a plethora of penalties and moments of uninspired play, the Bears opened their weekend with an 82-0 win over Arizona, Cal’s fourth shutout of 2012.

“Our penalty count was real high,” senior Danny Barrett said. “That’s one of the main things we need to work on.”

Cal came out a little flat, allowing the Wildcats to hang around in the early going. Arizona was able to put pressure on Cal’s defense, coming away with a handful of scoring oppurtutnites.

However, the Wildcats weren’t able to break through, and a missed a 20-meter penalty attempt from flyhalf Trent Fisher allowed the Bears to take a 33-0 lead into halftime.

Cal then jumped all over Arizona in the second half, putting the game away. The Bears finished with 12 tries from 10 different players, and flyhalf Alex Aronson converted 11 of his 12 kicks for 32 points of his own.

For the match, Clark shuffled around the lineup a bit, giving freshman Eakalafi Okusi his first-ever start with the varsity side. The freshman center made his presence felt, getting the Bears on the board with a try at the two-minute mark.

Cal then had to come back on Sunday to take on Arizona State with essentially the same side — and the resulting fatigue was apparent. It was the first time this season that the squad had to play two full-length matches in the same weekend.

“It was a good test for us,” junior Seamus Kelly said. “Our fitness needs a little work, as well as our general grit and toughness. We’ve got to want it more.”

The Bears still managed to impose their will upon the game, coming away with a 59-7 win. Fullback Jake Anderson managed to pick up a hat trick, while Kelly added two tries of his own. Aronson had another accurate day kicking, putting away eight of his nine conversion attempts. But fitness and toughness were still an area of concern for the Bears.

“We have to be willing to grind when it’s difficult to do so,” Clark said. “We’re not quite there yet. We need to develop a much sharper edge.”

Cal will now look forward to hosting the University of British Colombia in two weeks to kick off the annual World Cup Series.

“I don’t think we’re ready yet, but in two weeks we’ll be more than ready for them,” Kelly said. “We just need to fine tune everything. We have everything we need in place, and now its just about execution.”

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