The Cal rugby team finally lived up to its name.
Following an up and down start to the 2012 campaign, the Bears tallied a signature win over British Columbia in Vancouver on Sunday, taking the match 46-20 to win their sixth consecutive World Cup.
“This is the performance that we’re most proud of,” said senior Jeremy Deterding. “We saw all 15 guys making plays and showing the hard work that coach wants us to provide. Everybody gave what they needed to help this team.”
After the Thunderbirds shut down Cal’s offense back in their February matchup, the Bears knew they had to play their cleanest and most efficient match of the season.
In the previous matchup, it took Cal 75 minutes of play to punch in a try. On Sunday it took just over 10, as junior Brendan Daly finished off a counter attack to give his squad an early 10-0 lead.
“The forwards were a little more competitive this time around, and our backs looked pretty lethal,” said coach Jack Clark. “Once they got a good ball, they really had the measure of the UBC back line.”
But UBC responded just minutes later with a try from outside center Dafydd Samuel to cut Cal’s lead in half. Flyhalf Carlin Hamstra would then notch a 22-meter penalty kick to bring his team within two points.
“It was a bit of a lucky try for them, and we just took a moment to settle down and realize that we still had the game in hand and just needed to keep playing hard,” said senior Connor Ring.
The Bears were beginning to look dangerously stagnant on offense until flyhalf Paul Bosco found a hole and darted through UBC’s defense. With all kinds of daylight in front of him, Bosco found a wide-open Brad Harrington, who walked in for the try — giving his squad the momentum back.
UBC’s Hamstra would miss his next two penalty kicks, while a try from junior Seamus Kelly would give Cal a 22-8 halftime advantage.
“We weren’t perfect, but we were pretty accurate in a big game under a lot of pressure,” Clark said. “It’s hard to be perfect trying to win a game under those conditions. Our skills were pretty solid.”
But the Bears weren’t done, and back-to-back tries from Harrington and senior Danny Barrett blew the game open at 36-8.
For the first time in a long time, the Bears looked like the more experienced team — playing clean and efficient rugby while forcing their opponent to commit mental mistakes. Playing one of the stingiest defenses in rugby — one that’s produced four shutouts this year — the Bears’ attack was balanced and error free.
With Cal looking as young and as inexperienced as it had been in quite some time to start the year, there were a plethora of question marks heading into this season’s campaign — none bigger than whether the Bears could compete with the Thunderbirds and take home their 13th World Cup in the past 16 years.
Another try from Bosco and a late penalty kick from fullback Jake Anderson turned that into an exclamation point, putting up 46 points for the blowout.
“Teams develop self-esteem from playing well and playing hard, and that’s what we did today,” Clark said.