On Saturday afternoon, Arizona State traveled to Witter Rugby Field to play Cal in the first official game of the newly founded PAC Rugby Conference.
By the time they left, there was no doubt which team was the class of the conference.
Whereas last year’s match between these teams wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter, this year’s game was over about halfway through the first half. Cal put the pedal to the metal and kept it there for 80 minutes, never going more than eight minutes without a try in a walloping 104-0 win.
“I thought we played well,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “I thought we really executed well. They were whacking us a few times in there, so we were under a little bit of pressure, and we executed well.”
More impressive than the final score was the thoroughness with which the Bears dominated the game. Cal (7-0, 1-0 in the PAC Rugby Conference) spent most of the game with the ball in its possession, gradually pushing the ball down the field and beyond the tryline. It wasn’t a romp like last weekend’s 176-0 demolition of Stanford, but by halftime, the score was already 50-0.
Even with the game already in hand, Cal never let up, even after making all its substitutions. On the few occasions the Sun Devils (1-1, 0-1) were able to make a run toward Cal’s side of the field, they were quickly stuffed. In a game in which their defense wasn’t much needed, the Bears still brought it on both sides of the ball.
“I think the whole game, we were playing defense,” said sophomore Andrew Battaglia, who led the Bears with three tries. “We were up 104-0, and the last minute of the game, we all still made big tackles.”
Cal once again showed why its depth may be its greatest asset, as 11 Bears combined for 16 tries. Seamus Kelly, J.P. Hurrell and Danny Barrett nabbed two tries apiece. Junior Jake Anderson converted on nine of 12 conversions before he was replaced midway through the second half.
But just as individual statistics offer only a fleeting indicator of an player’s performance, so too is the final score an imperfect barometer of a team’s success.
The Bears have now played three games at Witter Rugby Field since its renovation — two varsity matches and one frosh-soph match.
The combined score of those three games? 359-0.
“Those goose-eggs flatter us a little bit,” Clark said. “When you’re up by that many points, the easy thing to do is not work that hard. But once they get behind you and you’ve got to work really hard to get back in order to go forward, that takes a lot of gumption. And (against Arizona State,) I think we did well with it.”
The Bears continue their seven-game homestand on Wednesday in a frosh-soph matchup against Cal Maritime. But the Bears’ biggest test will come on Feb. 16, when British Columbia visits Witter. Cal has won 13 of the last 16 against the Canadian powerhouse.
“Cal is just a machine,” said Arizona State head coach Gary Lane. “The team looks good, they have depth, it looks like they’re pretty injury-free and I wish them all the best.”
Chris Yoder covers rugby. Contact him at [email protected].