It was a tale of two halves.
Cal rugby (9-0, 2-0 PAC) played its homecoming game against UCLA (7-2, 1-1) this weekend. With a win against their California rivals earlier in the season, the stage looked set for another impressive match for the dominant Bears. Though Cal would win 32-10, the initial performance was anything but dominant.
“No excuses — we just played horribly,” said head coach Jack Clark.
The first 40 minutes documented a catalog of errors for the home side with misplaced passing and dropped balls taking the sting out of the Cal attack. This sloppy play was evident in both attack and defense, with the Bears giving away penalties off the ball and missing tackles.
“We need to work on our communication,” said center and try scorer Jesse Milne. “We had a lot of botched balls that should have normally been seamless across the board.”
The first try of the game came from just such a mistake with a charge-down kick leading to a two-man overlap and an easy score for UCLA’s Seb Sharpe.
With ball in hand Cal looked threatening, but each passage of play inevitably ended in a mistake for the Bears and a turnover. The Bruins were playing well, but the Bears’ real opposition in the first half was themselves.
“It was just frustrating,” said fullback and try scorer Harry Adolphus. “It was basic mistakes we don’t usually, and we shouldn’t, make.”
The halftime whistle could not have come any sooner for the struggling side, but with the start of the second half came a second chance for the Cal team.
The break proved to be the answer for the Bears; within three minutes, they were on the board, and their confidence was back. Unlike in the first half, Cal was now maintaining possession, and a try was on the cards. This came 51 minutes in when, despite a failed driving maul, the Bears were able to coordinate some fluid passing in the backs and a score in the corner for Andrew Battaglia.
One would lead to many as Cal eliminated the first-half deficit to eventually clock up five tries, scored by five different players, and a 32-10 victory.
Besides its result, the real high point of the game for the Bears was the set piece. This area of their play has been a difficulty for the squad due to the loss of some senior forwards last semester. The squad has been experimenting with the front line, and this week, the experimentation seemed to pay off. Loose head prop Tanner Moore stepped up to take the throw-ins, and as a result, Cal dominated in the lineout and showed real potential in the scrum.
Despite the eventual score-line, however, the errors in the Bears’ game continued, and this might be a real warning sign for the team. The Bruins allowed Cal to come back, but in games in which the opposition is of a higher caliber, these mistakes might cost Cal more than a half.
Daniella Mogilner covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected].