Another game, another victory. The Cal rugby team (5-0-0) has started the new year undefeated, and judging by its current form, this pattern will continue throughout the season.
The opponent this week was California Maritime (3-2-0), a team with less ability than the Bears as they compete in the Pacific West Rugby Conference. This difference in skill level allowed Cal to field a freshman and sophomore team against Maritime’s top side. This exposure for the newer members of the team will no doubt give the squad a real strength in depth moving into their conference games.
“This was good for the development of the younger players on the team,” said head coach Jack Clark. “There’s benefit for them to play together.”
Cal led the game from the outset, scoring early with a break from Russell Webb leading to a try for back Harry Adolphus. This initial lead was maintained as Adolphus went on to score another try and the Bears as a whole went on to score another seven in the first half alone.
The flurry of tries in the initial stages was maintained into the second section of the match, with the Bears racking up a three-digit victory. This achievement, though rare in rugby in general, has become somewhat expected from this thriving Cal rugby team. The final scoreline of 101-5 demonstrated the Bears’ superiority in both attack and defense, leaving the Maritime with nothing but a consolation prize try.
The cohesion within the team was evident in the score, with the forwards providing ball to the backs and enabling possession to be converted into tries.
“We played as well as a unit,” said back Billy Maggs. “The forwards are playing great, getting good ball to the back. We had great flow to our game.”
Despite the overwhelming result, the Bears still have significant areas to improve on for next week. At the breakdown, Cal was lacking quick ball — it was not fielding the ball out quickly enough from the tackle area, thus giving the opposition time to compose itself. In addition, on many occasions, there was an influx of players committing to the ruck, preventing an overlap from being created once the ball was released.
“I think we need to work on distributing quick ball,” Maggs said. “In the ruck area, we need to commit less men, we need to be economical about it, we need to work smarter around the breakdown.”
The breakdown was a topic of improvement mentioned throughout the squad — a development that, once effectively tackled, will allow the team to continue to score highly in its more evenly matched encounters. Clark reiterated the importance of the breakdown while focusing on other elements of improvement demonstrated in the Maritime game.
“There were four or five things we didn’t do that well,” Clark said. “Our scrum wasn’t good early in the game, we weren’t efficient in the rucks, we took penalties we didn’t need to take. All things considered, though, these are things you expect to have after a game.”
With each game, improvement is always a necessity, and while the Bears were dominant against an inferior side this week, this will not always be the case. It is important that the team irons out the cracks against these weaker opponents to be fully prepared for its upcoming matches against stronger, more advanced opposition. This is all the more relevant as Cal looks to start its conference competition next week at home against Oregon State.
Daniella Mogilner covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected].
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated California Maritime’s record was 4-0-1. In fact, California Maritime’s record was 3-2-0.