In recent years, the University of British Columbia has controlled the storied World Cup series by defeating Cal in its last three meetings, with the Bears’ last win against the Thunderbirds coming in March of 2015. This weekend, however, the Bears will look to improve upon their 28-17 loss to UBC, in which they showed great promise by shutting out the Thunderbirds in the second half with a display of grit and determination.
“We’re looking forward to the contest,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “It’s a great challenge, and one of the reasons we play the sport is to be challenged, and have to do it for 80 minutes.”
The Bears have plenty to prove heading into this weekend’s rematch, as they head to UBC’s house in what should be a physical battle.
Cal proved its ability a few short weeks ago in an action-packed affair against the Thunderbirds by mounting an impressive second half surge. This performance showed that the Bears’ offense and defense are capable of competing at UBC’s level. Secondly, it offered valuable lessons and experience that Cal’s young players can potentially apply to their games moving forward. After all, the Bears started eight underclassmen in its last outing versus UBC.
The Bears, though, will likely feature a different starting 15 in this weekend’s match in an effort to give other players a shot at competing against UBC’s team that features a great deal of depth and versatility.
“We have some pretty significant competition on our team at a few positions,” Clark said. “The thought was to give one player the start at home and another player the start on the road in the first game and second game and use these contests to prepare our team for the matches that are ahead, which includes the postseason”.
Cal will continue to be tested in the approaching game. The Thunderbirds’ experience, coupled with their athleticism and physicality, is going to present a great challenge for the Bears. In addition, UBC’s exquisite ball handling and passing are pivotal components that help create their scoring opportunities.
In their last outing against the Bears, lock Sam Clark and winger Manar Kulkhan were key contributors and led UBC by scoring two tries each. Also, the Thunderbirds’ seasoned frontline featuring props Clint Lemkus and Chris Taylor, as well as hooker Alex Mascotte was a handful for the Bears a few weeks ago. These three athletes’ performances specifically helped set the tone for UBC by opening up the team’s offense, while also anchoring its defense.
The Bears will, once again, need a collective team effort in order to compete with the Thunderbirds. Cal has a mix of upperclassmen veterans and emerging young players, who may be called upon to compete in the second leg of the UBC matchup.
Sunday’s game against the Thunderbirds will by no means be easy, but it will be another crucial experience for the Bears as they inch one step closer in pursuit of defending their 15s national championship in the ensuing playoffs.
Ryan Groves covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].