It’s back to the good old California weather after the snow in Salt Lake City, Utah, as Cal rugby comes back to Witter Rugby Field for its last home match of the regular season.
Cal (18-1, 6-0 PAC) rugby will host Dartmouth (6-3, 6-0 Ivy) on Saturday afternoon before diving into nearly two weeks of practice for the last stretch of the season.
The Bears closed out their conference play with an away game against the Utes. The Big Green comes to Strawberry Canyon for their first matchup against the Bears in four years. In that last match, Cal celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a 99-7 win.
“We’ve had some epic games over the years,” said head coach Jack Clark. “They have long been one of the better teams in the collegiate rugby and the perennial best team in the Ivy League.”
Even though Dartmouth is undefeated in conference just like Cal, it had trouble in the nonconference matchups.
Dartmouth last action was at West Point on March 5, where Army came out strong with a commanding win, 113-7. Cal hosted Army the following week at the Cal Invitational and escaped with a down-the-wire 50-41 victory.
With the last stretch of the season approaching, the Bears will have the opportunity to fine-tune their game, especially as they only have two games over the next three weeks.
“Looking forward to this game, I mean, since we have a scheduled bye week the next week, I think it’s important for us to play well against Dartmouth,” Clark said. “I think it is important to show that our form is reasonable.”
Injuries have been a recent setback for Cal, but the last couple of games marked several players’ return to action.
Junior lock/flanker Ben Casey has been medically cleared for practice, which is nothing but good news for Cal. When he plays his next match, however, will be based on his feedback before, during and after practices.
“It’s that point of the season where there is a lot of guys that are nicked up a little bit. Obviously, we lost a couple guys for the season, but for the most part, you know, we are healthy,” Clark said while knocking on the wood.
Clark will likely roll out a starting 15 against Dartmouth similar to the one against Army, but several players have made their case of entering the starting lineup.
“We’re going to put a good team on the field, but we have more than 15 good players,” Clark said.
After Saturday, the Bears will have two weeks to perfect their game before challenging the top-ranked Gaels.
“Teams that are going to do well in any postseason are teams that are playing well at the end of the year,” Clark said.