Cal rugby shows importance of depth against Cal Poly

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In the 80-minute core-to-core fight that rugby is, a team has to either keep energy high or know that there is someone else coming after it to pick up the slack as a substitute. Cal rugby proved the importance of depth in a program after shutting out Cal Poly in the second half of the varsity match, 59-0, on its way to an 81-6 victory. The reserve-grade team took care of business as well with a 70-0 win prior to the main event.

The Bears played their first 80-minute 15-a-side match of the year after showing what can they do in 40-minute matches at the Dennis Storer Classic. As the majority of Cal’s veteran players spent the fall season limited to the practice field, it is important to put games under their belts to get them ready as soon as possible for another championship run as soon as possible.

“The more games we play, the more we would be able to refine our play,” said head coach Jack Clark. “We were able to add a few more options to our patterns of play.”

The Bears, however, did not start the game as they would have liked to.

Cal Poly got on the board first, three minutes into the game, with a penalty kick, grabbing an early 3-0 lead. Cal answered in the sixth minute with fifth-year flyhalf Jamie Howells’ try, giving the Bears their first lead of the match, 5-3, a lead that they would never relinquish.

After 40 minutes of play, the Bears went to the break with a 22-6 lead, highlighted by four tries and only one conversion by Howells (1 of 4) against the Mustangs’ two penalty kicks.

“We were a little bit loose with the ball,” Clark said. “It was hard for us to build as much momentum as we wanted.”

The second half, however, was a completely different story. By moving the ball more effectively and limiting their penalties, the Bears shut out Cal Poly while expanding their lead. Nine second-half tries and seven conversions by Cal were more than enough to secure a blowout victory.

The total of 13 scoring tries came from 11 different Bears, exhibiting the team’s ability to find sources of scoring from a variety of different players. Sophomore flanker Thomas Spradling, junior flanker Nic Mirhashem and sophomore scrumhalf Keanu Andrade were the only Bears who scored twice.

Clark utilized most of the players in his disposal, having to make do with what he had as 12 players are waiting to return to roster after small injuries last week.

“We obviously spread the ball well, a lot of different guys got touches, making good plays,” fifth-year All-American prop Kevin Sullivan said. “I think it just shows the depth that we have; that’s the key so far.”

Cal’s strength, depth and experience will all be tested against Olympic Club on Saturday as the Bears step on the Witter Rugby Field for their 2018 home opener.

“It will be a big challenge for us next week against a senior men’s club,” Clark said.

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