Cal rugby overwhelms Dartmouth in commanding 101-31 victory

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Timothy Dawson/File

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The Bears pass the ball wide out to sophomore wing Sam Cusano; he has a big room to run. A defender runs straight to him, but instead of vying for an alternative, Cusano runs directly towards the defender, trucks him and scores the ball.

“Cal try — Cusano”.

This play perfectly summarizes Cal rugby’s 80 minutes of action against Dartmouth this weekend, as the Bears easily handled the Big Green in their final home game of the regular season with a comfortable 101-31 victory.

While Cusano may have stole the show with his dazzling display, the win was a total display of teamwork, as the 17 tries came from 13 different Bears.

“If all 15 guys can play rugby, if they can all pass the ball and make a decision with the ball, that makes us more dangerous,” said head coach Jack Clark.

An opponent scoring 31 points is on the higher end by Cal’s standards, but the Bears reached the century mark in points scored for the fifth time this season — more than enough walk away with a win.

“Unfortunately we had couple of turnovers, which led to their opportunities,” said senior wing Justin Dunn. “But in the whole, I think we played good defense when we needed to and we got to spread the ball wide, and that was really good play for us.”

The first lead of the match went to Dartmouth, as flyhalf Patrick Sheehy opened up the scoring with a penalty kick, 3-0.

That lead wouldn’t last for long, as the Bears’ first score came two minutes later on a try from fifth-year prop Kevin Sullivan, who displayed his combination of strength and speed and put the Bears up, 5-3. Sullivan’s frame proved to be very hard to cover for the Big Green defense, as he exploited the gaps until he subbed out in 57th minute.

“I think this is something we talk about all the time on our team: all skills, all players — you know, everybody needs to be able to do everything,” Sullivan said. “I think it helps me being big; a lot of guys aren’t going to expect me to try to go for gaps, so sometimes they open up a little easier.”

The Big Green definitely gave the Bears a challenge, as they hustled on every possession and tackled hard.

That effort led to a relatively strange sighting in the 22nd minute as Dartmouth outside centre Luke Bienstock broke the Cal defensive front on Dartmouth’s side of the field and won the foot race to the try zone, narrowing the gap to 24-10.

“You have to impose yourself on the game and do all the hard parts of the game, then the game gets open,” Clark said. “I think we skip that phase every once in a while.”

Jailbreaks and foot races are things the Bears have been doing on offense on regular basis this season, but they are not used to be in the receiving end of these actions.

Cal, however, played very good rugby as a whole, even though mistakes led to Dartmouth tries on multiple occasions.

“Almost every time we executed, we did very well, to be honest,” Clark said. “We put up patches of play.”

The Bears ended the first half with two tries and a conversion in three minutes to enter the break with a 51-17 lead.

The second half started very fast, as Cal scored a try a minute into the half.

This score was then followed back by junior fullback Troy Lockyear catching a drop kick and driving straight to the end zone untouched a couple minutes later.

Junior flanker Nic Mirhashem definitely wowed those in attendance with a spectacular juke, causing two defenders to collide before stiff arming another one to the ground.

Sophomore scrumhalf Keanu Andrade also colored up his lone try as he pushed two defenders in to score after catching a pass with one hand.

Next up for Cal is an away matchup against top-ranked St. Mary’s to close the regular season.

“Our best rugby is still inside of us,” Clark said.

Can Sarioz covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @can_sarioz