What was anticipated to be a tough physical challenge turned into a sprint practice for the Cal rugby team.
Younger and faster, the Bears outran the senior men’s team Olympic Club in its home opener, 87-19. The reserve team followed the varsity squad with a 89-5 victory to end a successful Saturday at Witter Field.
The Bears started out strong, racing out of the gates with more energy than Olympic Club and never holding back on tackles. Facing opponents in their 20s and 30s, the Bears (6-0) were a lot faster and quicker than their older opponents.
“We showed some good composure in the beginning, we came out hard and we played together,” said sophomore wing Sam Cusano.
Junior flanker Nic Mirhashem opened up the scoring in the sixth minute with a try followed by a conversion from fifth year flyhalf Jamie Howells. Cal took the early 7-0 and never let up, maintaining it’s physical edge throughout the entire contest.
The second score for the Bears came from a very well-designed line play that opened up a lane for senior wing Aisea Tongilava. In his second career 80-minute game, Tongilava scored his first career try after joining the team; he is also listed as inside linebacker for Cal football.
Cal pulled the plug early in the first half with six tries from six different players and six conversions by Howells, grabbing a 42-0 advantage. The Bears exploited the Olympic Club defense utilizing several juke moves and forced missed tackles on their way to several touch-downs.
The only negative note of the first 40 minutes was an injury to sophomore scrumhalf Keanu Andrade; he ignited Cal’s aggressive attacks before colliding with an opposing wing, suffering a minor hip injury. The fans, however, can rest assured that the scrumhalf won’t be on the sidelines for long.
Olympic Club, coached by Cal great Ray Lehner, started the second half with more attacking power and scored their first try 11 minutes into the first half, making it 42-5. For about 25 minutes, fans watched a tug-of-war of a match, which was caused by a step backward in focus and a handful of penalties committed by the Bears.
“The idea of coming back and playing a game against Cal was good, but I wasn’t really happy about how the game went,” Lehner said.
With 15 minutes remaining, Olympic Club scored 14 unanswered points, cutting the Bears’ lead to 61-19, proving to those watching that Cal has room to develop.
“A bit of a let-down in the second half,” Howells said. “We gave 19 points that we shouldn’t have, so it was a bit disappointing.”
The Bears, however, picked up the slack in the final minutes and picked up the fruits of its game plan, playing as quick and fast as possible as the senior opposition started showing signs of fatigue.
“We want to play quick,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “The quicker we can play, better it suits us.”
The Bears displayed another great example of ball movement and offense for the second-straight weekend as they matched their 13 tries against Cal Poly.
Next up, Cal will travel to Southern California to face San Diego State, looking to replicate its offensive performance, perhaps with some improvements to make on the defensive end and not resting in the middle.
“We like to keep a big zero out there,” Tongilava said.