On Sunday afternoon,Cal rugby took on UBC with a starting 15 composed of solely reserve players, completely different from its earlier match against the Thunderbirds. In the second leg of the annual World Cup series, the reserve Bears displayed a valiant effort but ultimately lost 50-6 at the hands of a late second period scoring onslaught by the Thunderbirds.
Though the Bears showed strong effort in many parts of the contest, the Thunderbirds with their skill and physicality were able to maintain control through the commencement of the match.
“There were a handful of guys that played reasonably well, and a couple of guys who played very well, and then some guys it wasn’t their game to shine,” head coach Jack Clark said. “The clarity vis-a-vis our roster gets clearer with each outing and some of that is really positive and some of it is characterized as less than positive.”
In the match’s opening moments, the Bears and Thunderbirds exchanged knock-ons, with each team hoping to gain their stride early in the contest. Things swung in UBC’s favor soon after, as the Thunderbirds found their way in the try zone at the eight-minute mark after a Cal penalty called on sophomore flanker Nathan Becker. UBC followed that score up with another conversion from Theo Sauder, which put the Thunderbirds up 14-0 in the 12th minute.
The match got chippy around the 17-minute mark, when tensions ran high between UBC’s hooker Alex Mascott and Cal’s senior lock Olivier Damas. As a result, both players were rewarded yellow cards that next led to a 35-meter penalty kick from the Bears’ Jamie Howells. This chain of events brought the score to 14-3 at the 17th minute and offered the remedy to eat at UBC’s lead.
After the converted penalty, Cal dialed in its effort to keep the Thunderbirds out of the try-zone. Several minutes passed in which where Cal’s defense proved superior to Thunderbird’s offense, but by the 35th minute UBC scored once again and took a 19-3 lead. The Bears would not go away though, and they capitalized with another penalty kick due to a set of penalties from UBC. At the tail end of the first period, the Thunderbirds were in attack but were unable to orchestrate another scoring drive, which brought the score at half to 19-6.
The Bears showed great promise early in the second period against UBC. In the half’s first several minutes, Cal’s defense remained intact and it was able to keep the Thunderbirds from scoring. UBC’s scoring prowess though reemerged once again, as it found its way in for a score at the 54-minute mark. This score put UBC up 26-6 and began a chain of Thunderbird scores.
UBC scored four more tries into the later duration of the contest, which were accompanied by two successful conversions. The Thunderbirds’ scoring from the 63rd minute onward titled all the momentum in their favor. UBC’s quartet of size, speed, skill and physicality catalyzed their big win.
A few Bears, however, played particularly well and may be implemented into lineups as the season continues on. Junior flanker Felix Le Merle, sophomore scrumhalf Fawzi Kawash and senior lock Olivier Damas were key contributors.
“We talked about it (who played well) in the locker room after the game,” said Clark. “(Le Merle) was very good today. He must have made two dozen tackles, and he was the first guy to a lot of rucks. He just got through piles of work, so he had a really good game.”
Players such as Le Merle took full advantage of their opportunity to start and compete against an opponent of UBC’s caliber. This experience could be huge for the reserves and the team collectively moving forward because the postseason — where the Bears will need to utilize their reserve — is on the horizon.
Ryan Groves covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].