Cal rugby defeats Cal Poly, continues perfect 2015-2016 season run

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The Cal rugby team continued its unblemished run through the 2015-16 season during a stop in San Luis Obispo to play Cal Poly. Playing two matches — one with the usual starters and one with the reserves — the Bears once again dominated the score like a national title contender should. Playing traditional 40-minute halves for the first time this season, the Bears managed to put up nearly a point a minute in their 79-0 win over Cal Poly’s varsity team and 77-10 win over the reserve team.

“Cal Poly’s (varsity) team is better than all the teams we’ve played, other than maybe UCLA,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “They’re really physical and good up front. And they gave us a hard time (in the scrum).”

The varsity team’s score represents an improvement over last year’s 76-3 win over the Mustangs, especially considering last year’s match was in Berkeley. Senior flyhalf Russell Webb continues to impress in his final season with the Bears, leading Cal with three tries despite being subbed out with more than 20 minutes left to play.

“(Webb) had a really nice game today, drove through the traffic real well and scored some tries himself,” Clark said. “He’s got a good head for the game, and he’s an important player for us.”

Senior All-American center Anthony Salaber got in on the action as well, scoring two tries and being subbed out at the same time as Webb. Junior flyhalf Jamie Howells — who had an impressive start to the 15s season in the Dennis Storer Classic — made the most of his opportunity after being subbed into the game, scoring twice in the last 10 minutes and kicking a conversion. Fifth-year senior Eakalafi Okusi also scored a try in the second half for his first of the season.

“We got off to a slow week (in practice) and lost our pace,” Okusi said. “We came out a little flat, but it wasn’t our best performance. We had to play a lot more defense than we did in the Storer Classic, but (the defense) was good.”

The match between reserves proved to be no more dramatic than the varsity game. After blanking four straight opponents at the Storer Classic, the 10 points that the Mustangs managed to put up is the first time an opponent has scored on the Bears this year. With 40-minute halves, letting up a score to an inferior opponent was inevitable, so the end of the streak should not be considered disappointing. The Bears have already matched their total amount of shutouts from the 2015 15s season.

The scores are exactly what Cal should be putting up against inferior opposition, but going into the meat of the team’s schedule starting next week with a home match against University of British Columbia, Cal will have their first challenge of the season.

“We’ve got to have a good mindset going into the next game,” Okusi said. “If we focus on the fundamentals, we’ll be ready for next week.”

Andrew Wild covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].