Presidents’ Day: an official celebration of two of the most prominent and influential presidents in U.S. history, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, celebrated the third Monday in February. Taking place the very same weekend? A matchup between two of the most prominent teams in the PAC rugby conference: Cal and Arizona.
The Bears (10-0, 1-0) will take on the Wildcats (4-0,3-0) on Saturday afternoon in Tucson before traveling to nearby Phoenix to face fellow Arizona foe Arizona State (2-2, 1-1) on Monday.
The more formidable foe will come first on the Bears’ docket — a team that Cal lost to in the fall’s PAC Rugby Conference 7s championship, 31-26. But 7s play is vastly different than 15s, and since that loss in mid-November, the Bears have decimated every opponent — boding well for them in this weekend clash.
“I can’t wait,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “We’re really looking forward to it.”
Like the Bears, the Wildcats enter this weekend’s matchup with an untarnished record — their most recent win came against Utah in a solid 70-19 victory. In that game, senior fullback Kyle Rogers scored three of the team’s 11 tries. Rogers has been an integral part of each of Arizona’s wins this spring, and he’s likely to come out just as strong against the Bears.
Cal, though, has a plethora of weapons of its own, and the Bears are likely to mix and match lineups throughout the course of the weekend to find the perfect combination of skill. Returning to the field against Arizona will likely be junior flyhalf Elliot Webb, who scored one try and six conversions in his team’s massive 106-7 win over Utah Valley.
Despite Cal’s supremacy on the field throughout the course of this year, Arizona will likely pose a challenge unlike any that Cal has seen this season, and the Bears need to be prepared for a real battle.
“I think it’s a good game, we’re excited for it,” said sophomore winger Sam Cusano. “It’s gonna be a tough match.”
After a day of rest, Cal will return to a slightly different field in Arizona to face a slightly less daunting opponent. Arizona State has split its two PAC conference games with a win against USC and a loss to UCLA.
The last time the Bears met the Sun Devils in 15s play, they won, 44-16, in a game that was dominated by now-graduated Drew Gaffney. In that game, Arizona State made a push in the second half but Cal was able to hold them off and keep a win.
With a 55-man roster, Clark will have a lot of room to play with variations in lineups. While he’s got some reliable veterans that can undoubtedly pull out two wins this weekend, there is also some young blood that has proven it has what it takes to compete in the big leagues.
Clark has more than enough talent on his hands to create a multitude of winning lineups; all there’s left to see is how he arranges his pieces.
Sophie Goethals covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected]