Dominance in sports is more often than not a great thing, but one downside is that it makes matches boring after a while.
Last Saturday, Cal rugby hosted Arizona State for its first conference game of the season. The Bears routed the Sun Devils for a 109-0 victory, their seventh win and their fifth shutout this season.
Undefeated Cal scored 19 tries coming off from 10 different Bears. Sophomore wing Marcus Shankland, freshman flyhalf Sam Walsh and senior flanker and team captain Nic Mirhashem completed hat tricks on the day. Juniors flanker Sid Holland and wing Sam Cusano and senior flyhalf/fullback Elliot Webb were the other players with multiple tries, with two each.
Webb also took the responsibility of most of the conversion kicks, going 5-13. Walsh kicked the other six and converted two of them. Even though the conversion rate was low against Arizona State, that stat might be linked to the weather conditions, as Saturday’s matchup was played under heavy rain complemented by strong winds in Strawberry Canyon.
“A lot of the tries were in the corner, which made those conversions more difficult, and then you’re dealing with the wind, which was as much as anything,” said Cal head coach Jack Clark. “I thought we probably missed a couple of conversions that were there to be made, but we also made some difficult conversions on the sideline.”
Weather also made it harder for the players to control the ball, considering how much Cal uses passing for open looks. The lower scoring than in previous games, like the relatively low conversion rate, could have also been due to the rain.
“The weather would give us a healthy challenge,” Clark said. “I think, in large, we did well with it, but we want to play a cleaner game.”
Holding the Sun Devils to zero points, the Bears maintained their streak of not allowing any tries, as no team has proven to be good enough to find the try zone against Cal this season. Two teams this spring, UCLA and Cal Maritime, were fortunate enough to prevent shutouts with their successful penalty kicks, scoring 3 points apiece.
The competition, or lack thereof, makes it crucial for Cal to practice as hard as possible during the next week to be ready for when teams that are capable of scoring come face to face with the Bears. Next weekend, Cal will host Cal Poly in the Bears’ last stage of preparation before they play British Columbia, where the Bears will be facing a real test for the first time this season.
“We haven’t got challenged, on the scoreboard at least; that will make things harder when we start playing some of the excellent teams we’ll play on our schedule later on,” Clark said. “But we can do what we can do, you know.”