An adjustment period is often necessary when one travels to a foreign place. While San Diego is far from unfamiliar territory for Cal rugby, the adjustment period to playing back on the road was surprisingly long.
However, the Bears showed what they are capable of when they make the proper adjustments, ending their game with SDSU with 73 unanswered points on their way to an 85-10 victory.
“Every game, you have to come out and there are adjustments to be made,” said fifth-year No. 8 Thomas Robles. “And certainly for us, there were adjustments we had to made around the way referee was managing the game.”
Uncharacteristically, Cal (7-0) failed to put points on the scoreboard for the first 25 minutes of action. Meanwhile, the Aztecs jumped out to an early 7-0 lead.
Sophomore flanker Thomas Spradling scored Cal’s first try with a successful conversion by fifth-year flyhalf Jamie Howells to tie the game at 7-7.
Cal’s defense was not in the same tempo that fans are used to seeing, as some key missed tackles and a penalty kick kept SDSU (0-3) in the game even though the Bears led at the half, 19-10.
“The mentality in the second half was to clean our rugby up,” Robles said. “We had to play within our potential because we are capable of playing some great rugby, and that’s what we did in second half.”
In the second half, the Bears formed a more unified front with successful help defense as they held the Aztecs scoreless the rest of the way all while increasing their offensive tempo.
The game marked Cal’s third full 80-minute, 15-a-side match and the third time the Bears recorded 13 tries in a game.
“I don’t think that the 13 tries is any indication of how good we are or how good we intend to be,” Robles said. “It’s just simply a building block that we’re looking to use to take the next step towards becoming a good team.”
The highlight player of the game was freshman wing/center Marcus Shankland, who led the scorers with three tries in his first appearance with the varsity roster. It was also the first time this year that a Cal player recorded a hat trick.
“I think first time someone wears blue and gold stripes, it’s really a big opportunity,” Robles said. “I cannot ask nothing more than their full effort and that’s definitely what (the underclassmen) did.”
Junior hooker/prop Jack Iscaro and sophomore center Christian Dyer were the other Cal players with multiple tries, posting two apiece. Like Shankland, Iscaro was making his first start of the year.
The Bears will regroup Sunday and start preparing for their midweek match against Stanford in Palo Alto for the Scrum Axe, taking place before a doubleheader against Cal Maritime and Utah Valley on Saturday at Witter Field in Berkeley.
“The expectation of the team is simply to play well,” Robles said. We have a value on our team, which is constant performance improvement.”