No. 3 Cal prepares for No. 10 Arizona to decide conference title

Kavya Narendra Babu/File

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As expected, Cal rugby has continued its tradition of dominance, scoring more than 83 points a match and shutting out eight of its 14 opponents throughout the season. The team is focused on returning to the national championship and can take an important step toward that goal in a 1 p.m. Saturday home matchup against an Arizona team that is undefeated in conference play and ranks 10th nationally.

“We have a great team coming into the canyon,” said head coach Jack Clark. “It’s for the league championship against a top-rated group; we’re excited for it.”

Cal (13-1, 2-0 PAC), currently ranked third nationally, is coming off a Homecoming weekend tripleheader, as the Bears defeated Santa Clara, 76-16, Humboldt State, 143-0, and Utah, 118-0.

Arizona (6-1, 2-0 PAC) is coming off a road loss to No. 8 BYU. The Wildcats have defeated every common opponent the team shares with Cal, overcoming San Diego State, 42-7, Arizona State, 78-9, and UCLA, 35-24.

Last season, the Bears outpaced the Wildcats in Tucson, winning 48-17 behind current junior scrumhalf Keanu Andrade’s two tries. In that match, Arizona was able to keep pace, keeping it close in the first half, but the Wildcats were quelled by a strong Cal defense that only allowed 5 points in the second 40 minutes.

48 points is lower than any score the Bears have put up in conference play in 2019, and 17 points would be much higher than any score they have allowed — Cal has shut out every PAC opponent it has faced thus far. Furthermore, the Bears have only conceded tries in four matches — in two matches against the Canadian powerhouse University of British Columbia, on Feb. 16 against Cal Poly, and March 15 at Santa Clara.

“It’s tough at certain points,” said senior flanker Nic Mirhashem when asked about how his team has maintained energy throughout a grueling season. “But our goal of winning a national championship keeps us going through every week and every match.”

Cal will be at Witter Rugby Field next weekend as well, as the Bears will host No. 1 Saint Mary’s to conclude the regular season.

“Saint Mary’s is a great team,” Clark said. “We have a big two weeks ahead.”

Kunal Dutta cover’s rugby. Contact him at [email protected].