Cal gets back on track with lopsided win over UCLA

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The world is back to making a little more sense.

After three uncharacteristically close matches, including a loss to Cal Poly that snapped its 63-game win streak, the Cal rugby team returned to its dominating ways of the past, taking out UCLA 79-3 on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. The squad scored more points than it had in its last three outings combined.

“We won enough possessions so that it was a little bit easier to score,” said coach Jack Clark.  “We just had more ball in hand and more opportunities to score.”

The Bears wasted no time getting on the board, turning their first possession into a 20-meter penalty kick from fullback Jake Anderson to take an early 3-0 lead. Twelve minutes later, center Seamus Kelly sprinted 50 meters for a try, putting his team up 17-0.

At that point, the match might as well have been over, even if there were still 70 minutes of rugby to be played.

Cal would continue its onslaught throughout the entire first half, taking a 36-3 lead into the break. The Bears’ forwards physically dominated UCLA’s, creating gaping holes for the Cal backs to work with. The Bruins’ defense had no answer for Cal’s size up front and failed to disrupt its attack.

“In the last couple weeks, we’ve been lacking a bit of toughness, physically and mentally,” said sophomore Paul Bosco, who started at flyhalf in place of Alex Aronson. “Today, a couple kids just stepped up and said, ‘follow me, this is how you do it.’”

The Bears likely would have tallied their fifth shutout of the season if not for a series of mental lapses and breakdowns midway through the first half.
Sophomore Jack O’Beirne was given a yellow card midway through the half after accidentally tripping one of UCLA’s players, putting his team down a man.

The Bears compounded the mistake by committing a series of penalties, resulting in a 23-meter penalty kick from fullback Tyler Pritchard — the Bruins’ only score of the day.

“We went through a series with poor discipline and had a string of penalties,” Bosco said. “That was really the only way they could get it into our end of the field.”

In the second half, it was still all Cal. The Bears’ defense disrupted everything that UCLA tried, and the Bruins couldn’t overcome their physical and athletic handicap. Cal stayed on the attack, tallying seven more tries from five different players.

While Bosco took over for Aronson as flyhalf, Jake Anderson assumed his kicking duties, converting his only penalty attempt and hitting on 8-of-12 conversion attempts. Aronson sat out with an injury, and a timeline for his return is unknown.

The team was happy to finally put some points on the board but still believes it has some room before it reaches its ceiling.

“We’re still a work in progress, and we’ve got to continue to improve,” Clark said. “We needed to see an improved performance, and I think we did. We just need to stay at the task.

And with upcoming matches with rugby powerhouses British Colombia and St. Mary’s, the Bears will need to reach that ceiling soon.